have a work related problem. You are being sexually harassed, being
denied overtime, or you are being threatened with termination. You
would like to hire a lawyer to represent you. Although many
employees contact lawyers for help, most of the time the attorneys will
not represent them. Often, the attorney makes the decision not to
represent the potential client within the first two to three minutes of
the contact. Here are some tips to increase the likelihood that a
lawyer will take the case.
1. BE PREPARED
- When you contact the lawyer, the lawyer will attempt to access
whether you have a decent case as quickly as possible. Therefore, you
need to be able to give the lawyer relevant information in a hurry. Be
prepared to tell the lawyer where you work, how long you have been
there, your position, your salary, and the most recent event that led
you to call the lawyer on that particular day. Have any and all
relevant documents with you when you call. For example, if you have
been terminated, have the termination letter available when you call.
2. DON'T SELF DIAGNOSE -
Although it is tempting to call the lawyer and say, "I have been
wrongfully terminated," don't do it. It is far better to tell the
lawyer the recent factual events that caused your call, rather than to
present the lawyer with a self diagnosis. On many occasions, when the
potential client presents the diagnosis, the facts don't state a claim
as a matter of law. Further, when the potential client is trying to
shoe horn the facts into one legal theory, it may prevent the lawyer
from asking questions that may lead the lawyer to a more viable claim.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes it is
completely obvious that someone has been sexually harassed or
discriminated against, but even then tell the lawyer what happened.
They will confirm your conclusion.
3. TELL THE LAWYER THE MOST RECENT EVENTS FIRST -
Although you may have a long and tortured history with your employer,
tell the lawyer about the most recent event first. If the potential
client starts the conversation with a monologue about events that
occurred years before, the lawyer starts to tune out because the events
are probably barred from suit by the applicable statute of limitations.
Although something horrible may have happened five years ago, something
led you to call today. Start the conversation with those facts.
4. EARLIER IS BETTER THAN LATER - If
you are having problems at work, it is often easier to find a lawyer to
help when the problems begin rather than later. A lawyer probably will
be able to do more to help you when you are put on a Performance
Improvement Plan, rather than after you have been terminated.
Similarly, a lawyer is more willing to help you before you go to the
EEOC or you file a lawsuit, rather than after you have done those things
5. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT -
Before you call or write a lawyer, know what you want the lawyer to do
for you. Do you want to stay on the job? Do you want a severance? If
so, how much? Do you want to file a lawsuit? Why? If you know what
you want, it will assist the lawyer develop a strategy to help you.
6. REMEMBER, THE LAWYER IS ASSESSING YOU AS A WITNESS -
It is important to make a coherent presentation during your initial
contact with the lawyer because during that very first encounter, the
lawyer is trying to imagine you as a witness on the witness stand. If
you cannot make credible presentation, the lawyer may not take your case
even if it is a good one. Practice your presentation before you call
7. BE UPFRONT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE FACTS -
Employment relationships are often complicated. Although you may have
made an error, it still might not excuse the employer's behavior. You
should, however, be upfront with the lawyer about any negative facts in
your work history. Sometimes, it may not matter. If it does, however,
you are better off finding out now rather than years later.
8. DON'T BE SECRETIVE -
Try to be as open as possible during the initial conversation. For
example, the lawyer needs to know the name of the employer and the other
people involved to make sure there isn't a conflict. If the lawyer has
to pull teeth to get even basic information, the lawyer will pass on
9. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY IF THE LAWYER DECLINES THE CASE -
There can be any number of reasons why a lawyer will decline a case,
even a good one. Some lawyer will not represent government or union
employees. Others may not take cases involving certain subject
matters. Some lawyers will not take cases in certain counties. Some
will not take cases in federal court. Some will not take a case unless
the damages exceed a certain threshold. Just because one lawyer won't
take it, it doesn't mean that every lawyer will decline the case.
10. ASK FOR A REFERRAL -
If you have talked to a lawyer who has declined your case, ask the
lawyer to refer you to another lawyer. The next lawyer is much more
likely to respond if it is referral from a friend.