How to Select the Best Labor Law Attorney for Employers

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Key Points:

  • Finding the best labor law attorney is an important task that requires diligent efforts on your part and a good understanding whom exactly to look for.
  • Just like you would not see a dentist for knee surgery, attention to detail is important to protect your business and to avoid wasting thousands of dollars on an incompetent or simply inexperienced attorney.
  • Before hiring, test your lawyer’s experience, competence, sincerity, and fee structure.

Avoid the Number Trap: Don’t Ask a Friend Whom to Hire!

 Legal situations often occur unexpectedly. You think everything is right and everyone is happy, before you learn that everything you have built is suddenly under attack by a threat of or actual lawsuit. If it helps you to cope with the situation, you are not alone. Each year, thousands of businesses go through employment disputes and find themselves accused of harassment, retaliation, discrimination, or wrongful termination claims. Here is what you should not do: most people react emotionally. They can’t wait to share their story; they can’t wait to strike back or take revenge against the former employee that is making these unjust and unfair and untrue allegations. What do they do? They look for a lawyer! However, instead of really and actually looking, most people, when confronted with a legal situation, follow recommendations. In fact, under the stress of pending litigation, they—blindly—follow recommendations of others. They ask a friend, they ask on social networks, or they ask an attorney they know who could best help to counter the allegations. Well, when your business is under attack, when you may face litigation in federal court, and when someone accuses you of breaking federal law and is now demanding unreal compensation for your alleged misconduct, you can’t make your selection of an attorney depend on friends, Facebook friends, or the court of public opinion. You need to do your own search.

Conduct a Diligent Search: Know What to Look for

If your knee hurts, would you look for a dentist? Probably not. Thus, before you start a concise search, you need to understand what you are looking for, or otherwise risk that you inevitably end up with someone who may have a license to practice law, but likely lacks the specific experience you need to protect your business. Who wants to throw good money at bad lawyers? To start with, there are two types of lawyers to keep in mind when looking for an employment law attorney: some lawyers only represent plaintiffs, that means these lawyers sue employers like you. They represent employees, not employers. Their interests couldn’t be farther away from your goals. So, scratch those, don’t waste your time on their websites. It’s like you are a criminal defendant—and you are looking for a prosecutor. In fact, you need a defense lawyer. Now, there are many litigation defense lawyers out there (because there are a lot of litigation cases filed each year). You do not need a litigation defense lawyer with a background of defending drivers against car accident claims and you do not need a defense lawyer with a background in patent law infringement. You need a “corporate employment defense lawyer” or a “sophisticated employer defense attorney.” Searching this way, you will increase your chances to get in contact with attorneys that a) defend and not sue people and b) have a specific background and proven experience defending corporations and employers.

Ask Tough Questions. Don’t Let Your Employer Defense Lawyer Candidate Play Politician with You.

Now that you have zoomed in to those lawyer candidates that realistically could be the right fit, the real work for you only begins. Every lawyer you will talk to will tell you that he or she is the best lawyer, that they can help you, and that they know how to win this. Well, try to avoid such a pony show by asking your lawyer candidates questions that are designed to explore their true experience. Objectively speaking, what is the lawyer’s experience? Instead of asking “are you good at this,” consider more concise inquiries such as: How long have you been practicing this type of work? How many employers have you defended? Did you ever sue an employer on behalf of an employee? How many employer defense cases did you get dismissed without going to court or trial? If I hire your firm, who will represent me: you, the partner, or are you delegating my case to junior lawyers and associates. This last question is important because it blends over to another critical consideration, namely: how much will all of this cost me?

Don’t Underestimate the Cost Factor: Look Within Your Budget

All these considerations can become moot if you don’t maintain a long-term vision. Even the most frivolous allegations will not be resolved within days or even weeks once a case is filed with the court. Unfortunately, that is just not how the bureaucratic litigation process works. For you, the paying customer, that means you need to have a clear understanding of what your corporate budget is and, before (!) you sign an engagement contract with an attorney, you need to have a frank and realistic conversation about the expected fees. In general, defense lawyers charge one of two types of legal fees. The vast majority of firms use an hourly method. You will sign an engagement letter, pay an upfront retainer, and then periodically, typically once a month, you will get an accounting to see how many hours the firm spent on your case, and how much money, if any, is left. This method can lead to hefty invoices in particular if you allow the firm to have multiple lawyers and paralegals work on your case at the same time. The alternative, fixed fees, is less common in civil litigation than it is in criminal cases, but it is something you may want to explore. Fixed fees offer predictability because you know exactly how much the case (or stages of the case) will cost you irrespective of how many lawyers will work on your case and independent of duration. For example, if you pay a certain amount to cover everything except for trial, you have the certainty that this payment, possibly in installments, will be within your budget. Surprises in invoices from hourly fee charges can thus be avoided.

Is This Labor Law Attorney for Employers Someone You Feel You Can Trust?

At the end of the day, no matter whom you hire, you will spend significant time with that lawyer for him or her to learn your side of the story, to discuss strategy, and to work together through the course of discovery. If there is such a candidate, make sure you choose the one who is sympathetic to your case, who actually cares about the outcome, and who you have a good feeling about. While much of the criteria above focus on objective experience, trial knowledge, litigation factors and other more technical components, you also need to connect with your lawyer subjectively. You and your lawyer need to team up, work together, and you will go ups and downs of the litigation process. Make sure you respect each other, make sure your lawyer truly is your point of contact (and does not delegate you), and, importantly, that you can rely on your labor law lawyer for employers to be available and responsive to you instead of walling you off through a secretary or paralegal.

If you need advice, employer defense law firm of Oberheiden P.C. can help.

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