How Do I Find Employment Attorneys and Pick One?
This guide will give you my personal take on ways to find an attorney to represent you. It is based on personal experience and that of my trying to find attorneys to represent employees that I have interviewed. The Guide is pragmatic, down to earth, and hopefully easy to read.
Some ways to find an attorney.1. If someone where you work previously sued the company, talk with them. They will not be able to tell you anything about their settlement, but they can tell you who they used and if they liked them, and WHY they liked them. Always ask why. I actually did for myself before becoming an attorney.
2. Talk with a lawyer who is part of a large group that you belong to. You already have something in common. That group can be a church, synagogue, mosque, or service organization or a social or sports club. It could be a book club at the library or an environmental group. Ask the leader of that group(s) if it is large if any of the members are attorneys. Could be a group that your children are in or another family member belongs to. I found my attorney through my church when I sued my employer. If they do not practice employment law, they will know someone who does.
3. Whether searching or checking out a suggestion from (1) or (2) above, there are directories on-line. Obviously, I think AVVO is the best because that is where I am. Use their *Find a Lawyer.* Pick criteria that are important for you. You may want a free consultation. Check that box on your search. Many who do not advertise a free consultation, will give you one. Some will do it at a reduced rate. You pick the area of law. (It will usually be Employment & Labor) You put in a city and a radius. (Like a non-compete clause in your employment contract.) You can also put in the name of a lawyer and see his or her Profile. ( I recommend leaving out the middle initial or any suffixes) The big advantage is that you can read reviews, read their resume, see who has endorsed the attorney and see how many questions they have answered for people. Also how many guides they have written and a summary of case(s) they have chosen to discuss.
A word about reviews. Reviews of lawyers are just like TripAdvisor and Yelp. There will be unjustified bad ratings. People are just that way. You will see on TripAdvisor, 350 5-stars and about 5 1-star ratings. Hard to explain. You can please some of the people some of the time*.. What is important is the ratio of good to bad. The old adage, a happy customer tells three people and an unhappy one tells 50. With social media now an unhappy person tells millions.
4. Another organization far different than avvo, is www.nela.org. The National Employment Lawyers Association. There you can search by state and the attorneys come up by city. You can pick the area of law you are interested in. For example, Worker*s Compensation, Wrongful Termination, Wages, Sexual harassment*. Etc. They have a lengthy biography of their members.
5. There is also www.findlaw.com and www.Justica.com. Both of these websites have list of lawyers.
6. Or just Google: *employment attorneys, city xxxx, state XY.* Yahoo works as well as does Bing. You will be inundated with pop-ups for a while afterward.
Continued.....7. You can also search on the area you are concerned with. For example, google (sexual harassment in zzzzzz city and state ) and see which law firms or organizations write the best article about the subject.
8. There is the local county or state bar association who will have a list of attorneys by category. They may also have a list of attorneys who will work at reduced rates for low income clients and also do pro bono work. There are state associations like the California www.cela.org.
9. Legal Aid may or may not help those in need of employment services in your area or have a limited number of choices. They often help out with Unemployment Insurance claims. They cannot recommend anyone, but they can direct you to sources like above.
Also go the American Bar Association Pro Bono Project if you cannot find an attorney you can afford: https://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/directory.html
10. The ACLU, may have an interest in your case if it involves Civil Rights.
11. Federal District Courts have a list of employment attorneys that may offer reduced rates. Most employment laws are Federal. Some states have no State laws, and about 30+ states have very good state laws that are better than the Federal law for some employees. Especially the number of employees required by the Law. Most EEOC covered laws require 15 or 20 employees. Some states like NJ require ONE employee, PA 3 employees and Virginia 4 employees**
How to I Evaluate the Attorneys.Once you have identified some acceptable attorneys, call at least three of them. I recommend people talking with at least two attorneys. Three would be even better. If you have to identify more than three to call; then do it. Some lawyers are busy. Some attorneys will not practice in the specific area that your claim or illegal treatment covers. In talking with them, focus on if you can get along with them, and is their proposed representation financially the best arrangement.
This could be the second most expensive purchase you ever make, only behind you home. When potential clients come to me, I recommend they speak with two more attorneys. I know that is hard to believe. But I would rather have a client that has some basis to compare than to wonder. It is somewhat like dating. Love at first site, is great, but you really want to compare. Another attorney may spot something I miss or the potential client may tell them something different. Many of these laws hang on a single word.
Now that you have talked with two or three, compare the different parameters. What are the terms of the Retainer Agreement. Is it contingency or hourly or a hybrid. If not contingency why not. The fact is that if an attorney does not believe he or she has a high percentage chance of winning or settling high he will not take the case on contingency. He or she will shift all the risk to the client and say they will only take the case on an hourly basis. I have always said, if an attorney will not take the case on contingency and risk their time and money, then why should I risk my money. But like all genralized statements, there are exceptions.
If you do take it on an hourly basis, then try and get a cap. What may appear to be a short slam dunk winner, may drag on for five years and the legal bill could be $500,000. Yes, half a million. And it is possible the other side wants out so badly it might settle with two hours of discussions. I have been a part of both extremes.
Be sure to read your retainer agreement WORD FOR WORD and have someone else read it and preferably have another attorney read it. DO NOT SIGN IT THE SAME DAY IT IS PRESENTED TO YOU. I once heard a lawyer tell a class of seniors at a graduation event, *Let the sun set and rise before you ever make any important decision.* Good advice. Maybe several sunsets. Understand in the written part who pays for the out-of-pocket expenses. See what out of-pocket expense are going to be billed to you and which are not. Some lawyers charge for their secretary*s time, some do not. Some charge for text messages, some do not.
Who will be working on your case? What is the time estimate. (very hard to ever know.) Some states allow a hybrid retainer agreement, reduced hourly rate and a reduced percentage. Both sides can spread risk. Properly done these can be a good compromise.
Now the DisclaimerThese are only my observations, experiences, and opinions. They are not necessarily right for you or any individual. They just worked for me when I needed an attorney before and after I became on. Every situation is different and the laws that govern attorneys are different for every state. Nothing contained here should be taken to replace any official governmental document or licensing rule or guideline. The Rules of Professional Conduct can change at any time. If you have a question about what a lawyer says or does, post a question on AVVO under Ethics and Rules of Professional Responsibility or go to the state licensing bar and read their website.