If at all possible use a landline to make your initial contact to the office of an employment lawyer. Once you have gotten an employment lawyer to get on the phone with you, you do not want to lose the connection, for them not to be able to hear you, or for tension to develop because you are repeating yourself because the employment lawyer cannot hear you.
Most people would not want their doctor to be mowing their lawn, or driving at 65 miles an hour when their patient is trying to explain a painful medial problem. Do you think an employment lawyer will feel respected if your call to them is an afterthought while you are in the car with others, or by yourself on your way somewhere else?
Employment lawyers are real lawyers with many judicial deadlines to attend to. They have briefs to file in court, witnesses to make contact with, and may have trials to attend to. If the employee lawyer could bill you they would bill you $300 an hour for associate time and up to $600.00 an hour for partner or firm principal time. If you were paying the employment lawyer by the hour, opposed to getting a free initial telephone call with an employment lawyer, would you waste time going in and out of cellular service and repeating yourself?
First of all, any good employment lawyer spends a great deal of their career formulating questions to elicit the right answers. Employee lawyers do not expect you to ask equally poignant questions. But in all due respect to the non-employment lawyer workforce, they do not know what is legally relevant to an employment case. Most lawyers who do not practice employment law are equally uninformed what really matters in an employment lawsuit. Let the employment lawyer do his job and ask you the questions. Let him cut you off.
Employment situations go on for years. There simply is not time to discuss everything that ever happened at your job. Skilled employment lawyers are always trying to make logical connections. They are also thinking about how an employment situation fits into the legal requirements for certain employment cases. The client is only distracting the employment lawyer and making it difficult to focus and formulate a theory if they insist on talking about what is not legally relevant.
A good employment lawyer is not only trying to figure out if the prospective client has a case that fits within the law, but he is also trying to quickly determine if his client is capable of being a good witness. A witness who can recall events, listen to questions, even difficult questions and answer them is what is needed to impress upon the employer there should be a large settlement, or to win at trial.
Chances are, the client doesn’t know the law even if they think they researched it. Employment cases have come out every day since the early 1990s. Besides case law there are many statutes on employment law. Just suppose you read all 15,000 relevant California cases, all 500 relevant California statutes, the relevant federal materials of at least 500, and you even kept up on both sides of the bar’s opinions on all that material for ten or twenty years. Where is your experience trying employment cases? Sitting with clients at depositions? Do you also have experience with the rules of evidence?
Do you have any idea what kind of evidence comes in and what does not? Have you read the other 5,000 cases they teach in law school? Did you read the other 10,000 cases and 2,000 statutes all civil lawyers must know? Do you really have access to the sort of law books lawyers use? Do you have a Westlaw or Lexis plan? Do you have ten different two to four volume books on employment law? It costs at least $30,000 a year to keep up subscriptions for all that so the fact a client has read a few free and maybe out of date legal authorities on the internet just doesn’t do it. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but no employment lawyer wants an amateur employment lawyer for a client. Seriously, let your lawyer do the legal research.
And if you think you can handle the case better in court than an employment lawyer get ready to oppose thousands of pages of legal briefs in a format no lawyer with less than seven years of experience could even get anywhere doing. Also consider that at any serious employee law firm like the Employment Lawyers Group there will be an associate attorney and a partner/principal attorney working on your case not to mention a paralegal or two. Are you saying you can do the jobs of three experienced professionals in a professional you are untrained in? DO NOT SUGGEST YOUR CASE IS WORTH A HUGE AMOUNT – Again, you are not the lawyer. You have not had experience trying to settle 1,000 employment cases, preparing hundreds for trial, opposing all sorts of motions designed to throw out employment cases. Besides the fact that only employment lawyers who are really in the business know what employment cases are worth, nobody knows what the case is worth the minute the client first approaches an employment lawyer.
The value of employment cases are largely based upon the employee’s lost wages, and witness testimony. Sometimes the extent of the employee’s treatment with mental healthcare professionals and the conclusions of mental healthcare professionals determines the value of an employment case. None of these things have happened the minute the client first contacts an employment lawyer. If the witnesses pan out the case is worth more. If there are not a horde of documents justifying the employment decision, great. If there are smoking documents that prove discrimination, malice on the part of the employer, or the wrongfulness of a termination the case may have more value. None of this is to mention the actual employee suing’s ability to be a good witness is key, and they can’t have all sorts of problems in their background. The arbitrator or judge assigned to the case also makes a difference. None of this is known until the employment case is filed, documents are demanded, and witnesses are deposed.
Even in cases about unpaid wages the lawyer really needs to sit down and spend some time calculating damages. The employment lawyer may be incapable of doing that without all the paystubs, all the commission statements, and all of the employee’s timecards.
But finally, the employee lawyer needs to hear how good the employer’s defense is. Every case has two sides of a story and two advocates. If the employer’s lawyer cannot do a good job advocating the employer’s position the employee may have an advantage in the employment lawsuit.
Whether the employee knows it or not, an employment lawyer is a whole lot more than meets the eye. These men and women work on a contingency advancing thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in costs on an employment case. Employment cases are uncertain and take an enormous amount of attorney time. Employment lawyers of any worth must be capable of writing and opposing extremely complex and physically intimidating legal briefs. They also must be capable of some serious trial advocacy. Many employment cases do go to trial. Some employment cases are even appealed which adds another layer of contingency fee work for the employment lawyer.
Employment lawyers essentially dedicate their lives and their financial futures to the employees’ cases. At the end of the day the employee lawyer works so many hours they are lucky to make $100-$200 off the contingency fee which must pay the lawyer’s salary, the paralegal’s salary, and office overhead usually worth $125.00 in itself. Congratulations if you have found an employment lawyer on a contingency. They will make $25.00-$75.00 an hour at the end of the day if your case is settled and they are on a contingency. That is $50,000-$125,000 a year after they are paid back for the costs they have advanced. Let them try and win your case and they will do better.
You want to hire employee lawyers for defense work, they are worth $400-$600 an hour if not more. If an employee lawyer wins a binding arbitration or jury trial and is awarded attorney fees by the arbitrator or court they will get $300-$600 per hour. Think about it, you have $300-$600 an hour lawyers working for pay at some point in the future at $100-$200 an hour gross before expenses and they are advancing all sorts of costs they could be earning investment income on if the money was not tied up in the court costs on your case.
Be grateful for the services the employee lawyer will provide on a contingency at an ultimate rate which is less than most plumbers want per hour when they are paid the same day. You will also find out employment lawyers have serious staff working on your case. At the Employment Lawyers Group we have real paralegals. One has a certificate. The other is a college graduate with six years of experience as a paralegal at the Employment Lawyers Group. Do plumbers just throw in these staff members free of charge for $150 an hour? They sure do not provide free supplies. Know a good thing when you have it, respect your employment lawyer.
Some employees sit there, in their initial meeting with the employment lawyer, cautiously guarding all of the pertinent papers to the employment lawsuit. They might allow the lawyer to see just one document at a time. They might spend an hour sorting through documents the lawyer can sort through in one minute. The point is, the employment lawyer needs to see the documents. Hording them at the initial client meeting only delays things.
While paystubs, employee manuals, and certain e-mails can be important in employment lawsuits do not delay meeting the attorney because you want to get your documents in order. Too many times clients are too shy about seeing the employment lawyer before all of their documents are in order, or found, and some of them never are. If the employment lawyer has a window of time to meet you and perhaps take your time consuming case go for it. Don’t cancel the appointment to buy more time to make your documents pretty.
Don’t be irresponsible about looking for documents. The same is true once you have hired the employment lawyer. Now that there is a legal dispute you do not need your documents; your employment lawyer does. Documents you horde in your house will never come into evidence and never can be used in court if you do not turn them over. Other than collecting piles of documents what is the point of having them if you do not give them to the employment lawyer putting together your case and presenting it?
If a busy employment lawyer has agreed to meet you free of charge for an hour or two hours by all means get there. Get there on time. The lawyer’s interest in meeting you another week may not be there. Another case, of better quality, a higher value, or less hassle might have walked in the door to consume the employment lawyer’s next six months or year.
Leave kids, boy-friends, girl-friends, spouses, and nosy friends at home. Don’t breach the attorney-client-privilege by having somebody sit in the meeting with the employment lawyer. Don’t bring people in to better explain your own case, or worst off to intimidate the employment lawyer. It is very easy for an employment lawyer to move onto a case with less interference by third-parties. In all seriousness, it is your employment case. It was your job. Those third-parties were not part of the employment relationship, and were not allowed to do your job for you. Their place in the employment litigation is not to add another dimension to an initial client meeting or conversation in which the employment lawyer has a lot to cover in an hour or two free of charge.
Most of the clients who never sign up and never end up pursuing an otherwise meritorious employment case obsess on theoretical parts of an attorney client fee agreement. First off, how many employment cases does your lawyer expect to lose or obtain zero settlement on if they are taking them on a contingency and advancing all costs? Second, the employment lawyer is not going to charge you a fee if the case is lost. Have some balls. If the employment lawyer is investing tens of thousands of their time if not $100,000 or more don’t obsess that you could lose and the State Bar does not let the lawyer to say they won’t charge you for the costs of the case they advanced, but which they never sue clients for.
Another extremely annoying thing is when the client tries to negotiate the contingency percent. If you want to pay your lawyer less than $100.00 an hour and have them advance the costs then be prepared to get a very inexperienced lawyer without an office, or one who plans to do very little to prove your case. Real settlements are based upon proven cases in which costs are advanced by the employment lawyer opposed to a nuisance value settle or a settlement of ¼ or 1/8 of what your case is worth. Employment lawyers and legal commentators have another thing to say about the client who claims somebody else will take the case for a smaller percent; then why are you wasting our time?
A good many employment cases involve a statute that requires the employer to pay the employee’s attorney fees if the employee wins. Guess what, the Employment Lawyers Group are worth $300 an hour to $475 an hour or more (Karl Gerber has been awarded $475 an hour by multiple courts and arbitrators and he is not sure he wants anymore because $600 an hour is so much money who could afford it?). Don’t you think the employer is going to factor in some serious attorney fees at those rates if there is a settlement? Is it better to go with a law firm like the Employment Lawyers Group who tries and arbitrates 3 or more cases a year, gets a few published appeals every year, and has a reputation of representing employees and winning, or should you go with an obscure lawyer who claims they will represent you on a 10% contingency, but nobody has ever heard of them? And then when he asks for $600 an hour based upon no legitimate experience it’s all a big laugh.
The bottom line is be serious when initially interacting with your employment lawyer. Respect the employment lawyer’s time. Take advantage of the fact you have an expensive lawyer willing to listen to you for free. Jump on it. Don’t tell the lawyer you will get back to them, think about it, and discuss it with who knows who. Remember, you are the one who wants somebody to work for you on a contingency. It is very easy for the employment lawyer to lose interest or become engaged in another case by the time you get back to them.
If you are a serious client looking for serious representation by a serious and established employee firm, contact us at 1-877-525-0700 and get the treatment from an employment lawyer you deserve.