Finding an employment attorney should not be hard. If you know an attorney that you trust, ask them for a referral to an employment specialist. If you do not have a trusted attorney, you can do a google search for "employment lawyer" or search for employment attorneys on sites such as Avvo.com.
Get an Employment Specialist
Once you have found attorneys that take employment cases you want to make sure that you have a good one. First, and most importantly, make sure your attorney exclusively or predominantly handles employment cases. Lots of lawyers like to dabble in employment. However, you want one that spends all or most of his or her time on employment cases. Employment law is its own specialty and is very complicated. Someone who just brings the occasional employment case, does not know the law as well and probably will not do as well for you as a lawyer that practices employment law all the time.
Make Sure they Have Enough Employment Law Experience
Like good cheese, age matters. But you also want to make sure your lawyer aged in the right environment. You want a lawyer that has been practicing mostly employment law for at least ten years. Remember, just because an attorney is old, doesn't mean he's experienced. An attorney who practiced personal injury 20 years and switched to employment law 2 years ago probably knows less than an attorney that graduated 3 years ago but has been practicing employment law exclusively.
Make Sure They Know Your Type of Case
Different cases involve different laws, legal principles and court decisions. When you interview your lawyer, ask how many cases he or she has handled like yours. If you have a sex harassment case, you don't want a lawyer that mainly handles race discrimination cases. If you have a disability accommodation issue, you want to know that your lawyer is familiar with the very complicated disability accommodation laws and decisions. The same goes for every other type of employment case.
Don't Overpay for a Consultation
Many experienced employment attorneys offer a free consultation. Also, many experienced attorneys with thriving practices may charge a small consultation fee. Generally, the consultation fee will be two to three hundred dollars. If the consultation is more than that, find another attorney. More expensive does not necessarily mean better. There are plenty of very fine attorneys that charge little or nothing for a consultation.
Watch Out for Non-Refundable Retainers
You have found an attorney, he or she has the experience, you didn't overpay for a consultation and now you're looking at retaining him or her to represent you. You want to understand the retainer and how much you're going to spend. Some attorneys will ask for a lump-sum, non-refundable retainer. This is a set amount of money that you pay them to take your case and you will not get it back regardless of how the case turns out. In my view, you should never pay such a fee to retain an attorney.
Most employment lawyers will take your case on a contingency fee which means they only get paid if they obtain a settlement or judgment on your behalf. Generally, contingency arrangements can range from 20% to 40%. You should talk to a few attorneys in your region and find out what the market rate is. Also, you should ask your attorney if he or she will discount the contingency fee if the case settles quickly or before litigation commences or if the contingency rate is reduced for higher judgments or settlements. Finally, a high contingency fee does not necessarily mean the attorney is better. In my experience, a standard contingency is a third (33%).
Understand the Costs
Employment litigation can involve thousands of dollars in costs for deposition transcripts, expert witness fees, investigators, etc. One way or the other, you will be paying these costs - either they will be taken out of a settlement or judgment or you will pay them up-front. Your lawyer should explain anticipated costs to you and you should authorize any significant cost, even if your lawyer is advancing the cost and it will come out of a later settlement. Finally, if your lawyer asks you for money up front to help cover costs, he or she should be representing that the funds will be placed in trust and any unused remainder will be returned to you at the end of the case.
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