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What to Consider When Hiring an Employment Lawyer
Even in the 21st century, many people still suffer from discrimination or harassment on the job. Others may not receive their legally mandated wages. These experiences can be emotionally degrading and financially damaging, especially if an employee loses their job or is forced to quit. Unfortunately, holding an employer accountable is not as easy as it may seem. Many businesses retain sophisticated counsel to defeat claims like these before the employee has a chance to fully tell their side of the story. An employee should strongly consider hiring an attorney of their own to level the playing field. Although employment disputes generally do not go to trial, professional representation can make a significant difference to the outcome. An employer may take your case more seriously if you have hired an attorney. They may be more inclined to offer a fair settlement promptly.
Deciding who is the right lawyer for you can be challenging. A basic Google search can be a good place to start, but this should be only a first step. Google searches will lead to a wide range of results, including many paid listings that do not necessarily reflect the skill of a lawyer or their aptitude for your case. Similarly, you might gain useful insights from talking to friends or family members who have hired an employment attorney, but the right fit for them may not be the right fit for you. Each case is unique. Here are certain guidelines that can help you knowledgeably research and compare attorneys.
Background and Experience
You should hire a lawyer who has substantial experience handling the specific type of claim that you are pursuing. Employment law consists of many distinctive areas, and a claim may involve a combination of federal, state, and local laws. For example, if your boss demanded a date in return for a promotion, you should hire an attorney who has handled many sexual harassment cases. If you were not paid overtime, or if you were denied meal breaks, you should hire a lawyer who understands the nuances of wage and hour laws. If you were fired for disclosing fraud by your employer, you should hire a lawyer who handles wrongful termination cases involving whistleblower retaliation. Some attorneys may have relevant board certifications or memberships in professional organizations. They may have received awards or other formal recognition of their legal prowess.
In general, you should aim to hire an attorney without a history of serious disciplinary issues. Information about an attorney’s professional record can be found by searching for them on the state bar website for their jurisdiction. You may want to review the details of any disciplinary action to get a sense of the events leading to it. Some violations are less significant than others. You may not want to automatically remove an attorney from your consideration based on a very minor infraction if they are currently in good standing.
On the other hand, a record of serious violations should be a red flag, even if the attorney has achieved some good results. You do not want egregious mistakes by your attorney to undermine a case that is otherwise strong, especially since your financial security may depend on the outcome.
Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews by previous clients can give you a sense of what it would be like to work with an attorney. You may find insights into their personality, level of professionalism, and communication skills. Client reviews can be helpful even if the details of your case are different from a previous client’s case. However, beware of very brief reviews that are harshly negative or effusively positive without providing details. These reviews may not be trustworthy.
If an attorney has received favorable reviews from other attorneys, this may indicate that they have a strong reputation in the legal community. They may be more likely to be respected by judges and defense attorneys, which can help resolve your case more favorably and efficiently.
Often, an employment lawyer will discuss their most notable successes on their website or blog. Each case is decided on its own facts, so you should not assume that you will receive the same outcome as a previous client. However, a history of positive results for people in roughly similar situations to yours can be a promising sign. You may also gain insight into the cases in which an attorney performs most impressively if many of their strongest results involve the same type of issue.
Many employment lawyers offer a free consultation to prospective clients. You can set up a consultation by phone or online after providing some initial details about your case. The consultation helps the client and the attorney decide whether they are the right fit for each other. Even if you are impressed by an attorney’s credentials and achievements, you should not choose them on that basis alone. Instead, you should make sure to work with a lawyer whom you can trust and who relates well to you. You should feel that your lawyer is personally invested in your case, rather than treating you as just another case number. Ideally, you should set up consultations with several attorneys before deciding whom to hire.
Bringing a list of questions to the consultation can help you decide whether an attorney is the right fit. For example, you may want to ask about their initial perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. An optimistic answer may be encouraging, but you should think twice if an attorney makes guarantees or seems much more confident than their competitors. They may be overpromising. Also, you should listen to how the attorney explains their evaluation. They should be able to articulate their reasoning in a way that is coherent and accessible to a non-lawyer.
Fees and Costs
Fees are another important issue to address at the consultation. While some employment lawyers charge an hourly fee, others work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they do not charge fees upfront but instead collect their fee as a percentage of the verdict or settlement that they obtain for a client. In still other situations, an attorney may charge a flat fee to handle a matter, or they may use some combination of these structures. Any fee arrangement should be clearly set out in the representation agreement so that you understand your obligations. Sometimes attorney fees will be awarded to an employee who prevails in court, but you should not assume that they will be included in a judgment. Even if they are included, court-awarded attorney fees may not cover all the fees that the attorney is due.
In addition to attorney fees, an employment case may involve court costs and other litigation costs. These may include expenses such as filing fees, service fees, court reporter fees, and document copying fees. A contingency fee arrangement may provide that the client covers court costs and other litigation costs, or it may provide that the attorney covers these costs and will collect reimbursement from the eventual settlement or verdict. You should know what to expect before signing a representation agreement.
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