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How to Increase the Odds That an Employment Lawyer Will Take Your Case

Posted by attorney Jocelyn Burton

You 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 yourself.

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.

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 or write.

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.

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 the case.

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.

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.

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