What to Look For When Choosing an Employment Law Attorney

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What to Look For When Choosing an Employment Law Attorney

When you need an employment law attorney, how do you choose the right one? Our guide to researching and choosing the best employment law attorney can help you make the right choice for your needs.

Employment law is a branch of law that specializes in laws and regulations regarding the workplace and job you hold. There are different legal issues covered by employment law, including:

  • Age discriminations
  • Breastfeeding violations
  • Disability discrimination
  • Gender discrimination
  • Hostile workplace
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Racial discrimination
  • Religious discrimination
  • Rest and meal breaks
  • Retaliation
  • Severance agreements and severance pay
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual orientation discrimination
  • Wage and overtime
  • Whistleblowing
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Wrongful termination

When you have experienced discrimination, harassment, or unfair/unlawful treatment by your supervisor, administration, co-worker, contractor, or customer at your place of work, you need to talk to an employment law expert to learn how to proceed. Finding that attorney isn’t as hard as you might imagine.

Build a List of Possibilities

Start by coming up with a list of employment law attorneys. An online search is just one way to start collecting names, but it’s not the only way.

Ask friends and family if they have had to file a complaint at work and ask who they used. You may learn that former employees also experienced situations like yours and had to file a complaint. Ask them who they used, and if they’re willing to share a referral. 

Read legal news briefs in your area and see if you can find the name of the practice that handled the case. Major cases are more likely to appear in the news than smaller cases, but it doesn’t hurt to search and see what you find.

Do an online search for your state’s bar association. That website is going to have an option that says something like “Need a Lawyer?” and allows you to search for members of the bar association who match your needs. Once you click that, you’ll usually find questions like:

  • Area of law
  • Specific legal issue
  • The name of the county where the issue occurred

Enter that information to get a list of potential lawyers. It gives you more names to research as you narrow down your options.

Narrow Down Your Choices to Have Three or Four Possibilities

Go through this list and start narrowing them down. Look at the specific websites and see what you think. Specifically look at reviews, case studies or media, and make sure the attorneys you put on your shortlist can handle the workplace case you’re about to file.

Interview the Possible Attorneys

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, call the first potential attorney on your list. You want to interview them to find the best attorney for your needs. Ask these questions to help find the best employment attorney for your needs.

What Is Your Expertise and How Did You Reach This Point?

Find out what the attorney is experienced in handling. Some attorneys specialize in sexual harassment cases, while others are better at severance agreements or wage theft. You want the best match to your specific complaint.

You also want to ask about the attorney’s education and training. An attorney who is brand new and just passed the bar exam may not have the experience you need. Or, you might like dealing with someone fresh and eager to get that first win.

How Much Do You Charge?

Most employment law attorneys work on a contingent fee arrangement. What this means is that the attorney doesn’t require you to pay any money upfront. You don’t pay a retainer. Instead, the attorney agrees to a percentage of the recovery, either a settlement offer or a court-ordered award. At that point, the attorney takes the percentage from that amount, which is usually in the 33% to 40% range. 

What this means is that if you file a complaint for sexual harassment in the workplace using a 35% contingent fee arrangement and are awarded $500,000. The attorney would collect $175,000 and you receive the remaining $325,000.

How Do You Stay in Touch? How Often Do I Get Calls or Emails?

What is the best way for the attorney to keep you updated? Do you want a weekly call or are emails better for you? Can you meet in person?

Make sure the attorney is comfortable with your preferred contact method. You might not want emails going to your work email or calls until you’re in the privacy of your home. An attorney should be happy to agree to those preferences, yet some attorneys are happier making a call or meeting in person than sending an email.

What Are Your Success Rates?

What is the attorney’s success rate? You may not enjoy hearing that in the attorney’s past 50 cases, only five of them ended up with the client getting a settlement offer or court award. It’s a 10% success rate. Keep in mind that the EEOC reports that only 17.4% of workplace discrimination cases lead to successful results.

Do You Refer to Other Attorneys if You Don’t Have Enough Time?

The best employment law attorney will not take your case if the attorney lacks the bandwidth needed to properly handle your case. If that does happen, ask if the attorney offers referrals or if you have to start over and try someone else. 

It’s better for you if the attorney does offer referrals, as that attorney will know who has the most experience in the employment law matter you’ve presented. If the attorney doesn’t automatically offer a referral, ask for one or find out why the attorney can’t give you one. It hurts but some cases simply don’t have enough evidence to file a complaint.

Schedule a Free Consultation

That attorney will schedule a free consultation and listen to your problem and give advice on whether you have a valid complaint or not. If the attorney cannot fit you into their current schedule, you’ll likely be referred to someone who can help.

If you hit a dead-end with that first attorney, move to the second name on your list. It’s unlikely that the first won’t have information to help you proceed, but don’t give up if the attorney won’t take on your case. It’s not always a sign that you don’t have a case.

Some employment law attorneys are busy and their current clients always take priority. Think about that as you know you’d rather have the attorney focused on your case if you were a client. It doesn’t mean your case is invalid. It just means that the attorney doesn’t have enough time to devote full attention to getting the settlement or court award that you deserve.

Pay Attention to These Points

When you pay attention to the attorney’s experience, knowledge, commitment, and clarity when explaining your case and the applicable laws, you’ll find the right attorney for your needs. Make sure the attorney is going to stand by you and not abruptly hand you off for a more prominent case. You want an attorney who will fight for you from start to finish.

Don’t wait. Many cases of workplace discrimination and harassment have statutes of limitations, so you can’t wait too long. The sooner you reach out for expert legal advice, the higher your chances of having your concerns addressed. 

Shegerian Conniff is an award-winning employment law attorney in California. For three years, they’ve been named the Most Influential Women Attorneys in Los Angeles. Reach us for employment law advice online or by phone to schedule a free consultation.

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