A gifted employment lawyer is often compared to a reliable auto mechanic. You want someone who will honestly say what you need and the most effective way to go about it. They should offer their skills and expertise to help resolve your problem as quickly as possible for a reasonable price. The problem is, like all of the untrustworthy mechanics of the world, there are plenty of employment lawyers who will make decisions in their own best interest, rather than the clients. Therein lies the precariousness that comes with searching for an employment lawyer perfect for you and the unique situation in which you find yourself. Below we’ve assembled a guide to help anyone in search of an employment lawyer with the necessary steps to take before committing yourself to an attorney you may regret.
What to Look For in an Employment Lawyer
For the sake of this blog, let’s assume you are an employee, not an employer, seeking an employment lawyer. Employment lawyers handle a broad range of legal disputes regarding employment matters that directly impact the employer/employee work relationship. Some of these issues include any breach of contract, harassment, discrimination, confidentiality, severance disputes, or wrongful termination. Let’s discuss your options to find the best employment lawyer available for you today. Don’t settle for the first attorney you stumble upon. Take the necessary amount of time to find the right lawyer for you and your specific case.
Prior to researching employment lawyers in your area, you must first identify the legal issue at play. Once you have determined what exact legal problem for which you need representation, then you can begin your attorney search. Narrowing your search by location and legal issue will help simplify and specify your options. Beginning with a basic Google search can help point you in the right direction, providing initial options to consider. From there you can either pursue leads and read reviews of recommended attorneys and firms, or you can search more specifically via online legal directories like Avvo, Justia, FindLaw, Lawyers.com, or HireMeLegal. Legal associations such as the National Lawyers Association and American Bar Association are helpful resources too.
Seeking a referral for employment lawyer services can come from a number of sources. Most people begin their search by asking friends and family members for recommendations. If you know anyone who is an attorney, you can ask them to refer you to an employment lawyer they know and trust, or who comes highly regarded. Direct referrals can often be more promising than a cold call or Internet search. It’s best to test out all avenues and review your results before committing to hiring an attorney.
When consulting with potential candidates to represent you, determine how much experience the lawyer has handling cases like your own. Ask them what the percentage of cases they focus on are similar to yours. If they have special skills or more experience in a specific field of employment law, ask questions to determine if they are, or another person at the firm is the right lawyer for you. For example, if you’re in need of an attorney for a discrimination claim, inquire about their experience with discrimination cases. Then get more specific to your case. Is it a sexual, race, age, or gender discrimination claim? Does the attorney have more or less experience with any of those particular discrimination violations? Force the lawyer to prove to you why they’re the most qualified attorney to represent you. Don’t allow it to be the other way around. Also ask about how often they negotiate a pre-trial settlement rather than going to court. And before committing to anything, inquire as to the amount of your case work they will handle personally, as opposed to an associate or paralegal.
Once you’ve determined this individual is in fact the attorney for you, the next step is building and maintaining trust between one another. As the client, you should feel comfortable sharing all necessary information with your attorney. Anything you withhold can potentially hurt your case and prevent your lawyer from representing you to their fullest abilities. Meanwhile, your employment lawyer should be honest with you upfront and stand by their word. They should explain their fee arrangement beforehand and clarify any details regarding billing, costs, and a timeline of resolution before moving forward with the case.
Questions to Ask
Below we’ve compiled a list of helpful questions to ask when searching for and consulting with an experienced employment lawyer:
- What percentage of your cases go to court versus being settled?
- What percentage of your practice handles employment matters similar to my case?
- What are your firm’s and your own personal practices for keeping up to date with current laws and regulations?
- How much of my actual case work will be handled by you, rather than associates or paralegals?
- What is your fee arrangement?
Employment Lawyer Fees
Many employment law attorneys charge a small consultation fee for your first meeting, while others offer a free consultation service. Beyond the initial consultation, most attorneys traditionally offer one of two structures to select from when handling lawyer fees.
- Hourly Rate – Based on a variety of factors, attorney’s hourly rates can fluctuate drastically. But an average hourly rate for an employment lawyer should fall somewhere between $250 and $500.
- Contingency Fee – General practice regarding contingency fees is that your attorney will keep ⅓ of any pre-trial settlement, and 40% or more of a jury award in the event the case goes to court.
Things to remember when pursuing damages from an employer is that in many employment law cases, the amount you are awarded can be capped. Punitive damages are rare in employment law, so you should only expect to receive lost pay and benefits, in addition to some amount for pain and suffering. And need not forget that your settlement or award will be subject to any state and federal taxes that might apply. These are all reasons why you must clarify the fee arrangement with your attorney before moving ahead with your case. Dealing with any misunderstandings in the middle of the case will be a headache for both you and your lawyer.