You may have been harassed, wrongfully fired, or otherwise mistreated by your employer. Your finances may be in disarray, and your mental health may have deteriorated. All you want is a calm, confident, winning attorney to take your employment law case—but when you Google “employment law attorneys,” all you see are a sea of names and lists of results, with no way to tell which attorneys are good and—just as importantly—which are a good fit for you.
Here are some basic considerations and questions to help guide you through this stressful process.
What to Look For in an Employment Attorney
Step One: Identify Attorneys to Research
Most people start their search for an employment law attorney by soliciting referrals from friends, family, or co-workers. This can be an efficient way to put together a list of attorneys to speak to.
If you are uncomfortable discussing the situation with friends or family, or if you have no luck asking for referrals, many people begin with databases Avvo, Findlaw, Justia, and even Yelp. Identifying reviews for attorneys can be a good way to rule out attorneys who are problematic, non-responsive, or unprofessional.
Step Two: Check Credentials and Experience
Once you have a list of attorneys to research, it is wise to make sure they are registered and in good standing with the state bar where you live. You can enter the attorney’s name in the State Bar attorney database to ensure they are not subject to any ongoing disciplinary actions.
The State Bar database will also tell you where the attorney went to law school, when they graduated, when they became licensed in California, and whether they took time off practicing law (taking “inactive” status), among other things. These data points can help you assemble a preliminary picture of the attorney’s competence and experience level.
The lawyer’s website should provide additional information about their practice. What type of claims do they specialize in? What types of claims are their biggest settlements or verdicts in? Have they won awards and are they respected by their peers? Have they participated in ongoing education programs like Trial Colleges? Are they members of professional organizations or boards?
Step Three: Ask Questions and Determine “Fit”
Just like you may not “click” with every doctor, therapist, or other professional you work with, some clients are a better “fit” for some attorneys than for others. While some clients want more personal attention, other clients find litigation stressful and would rather receive a brief update every once in a while. Some clients want to take their cases to trial while others want to receive a settlement quickly and move on, even if it means less total money overall.
Just as all clients are different, all attorneys are different. Some provide a more personal experience, while others are more businesslike. Some attorneys rarely litigate lawsuits and instead send demand letters and negotiate resolutions. Some attorneys never try cases; others hope to try every case they accept. These factors obviously impact whether an attorney is a “fit” for your goals.
Be wary if an attorney does not attempt to understand your goals. This suggests they have a one size fits all approach that may or may not work for you. Some questions you can ask an attorney include:
- What types of cases do you litigate? How much experience do you have in employment law? If you are looking for a discrimination attorney, you may not want an attorney who only advertises large personal injury settlements. While they may be a wonderful attorney, they may not be right for your claims.
- Do you litigate cases in court? Do most of your cases settle early on? This will help you understand whether the attorney encourages clients to accept early settlements to avoid litigation, even when those settlement offers may be too low. Defendants know which attorneys litigate claims in court and which attorneys will recommend an unfavorable early settlement because they do not like litigating.
- Can you tell what my case is worth? How would you go about evaluating what my claims are worth? A good attorney will be able to explain a methodology or practice for valuing cases. You should beware of attorneys who will take your discrimination case but tell you it’s worth very little, as well as attorneys who suggest you can get a seven-figure settlement without reviewing additional information or speaking to witness. Believe it or not, most cases do not resolve for this much money, even if you hire the very best attorneys. Anyone who promises you this type of eye-popping outcome without getting their hands dirty in the facts of your case is selling you a bill of goods.
- Have you tried cases? Who will try my case? The fact of the matter is that most cases settle. Because of this, trial and hearing experience is rare among employment lawyers. Does the attorney take cases to trial? Do they co-counsel with other attorneys for trial? This can be a good strategy for smaller firms and ensure you receive top-notch trial representation.
- Who will be my day-to-day contact? Who else will be working on the case? With a solo practitioner, the attorney themselves or a paralegal will likely be your day-to-day contact. With a firm of multiple attorneys, you may have multiple attorneys staffed on your case. How are those attorneys staffed? Is it based on their experience or expertise in your type of case? How often can you expect to hear from the partner on your case? Who makes strategic decisions?
- What are my options? A good lawyer will be able to clearly walk you through your options. They will not immediately shoehorn your case into any particular path to resolution. There are options in litigation; sometimes the most aggressive approach is not best or most efficient. You want to understand the choices your attorney is making on your behalf.
- What is your contingency fee? Do you cover costs up front? Employment lawyers charge a range of contingency fees. Some lawyers’ fees change based on when in the case a settlement or judgment is reached. Most employment attorneys will cover costs up front and will be reimbursed from a settlement or judgment. Others will require a retainer for costs or may offer a reduced contingency fee if you pay a retainer for costs. You want to understand the fee structures offered by your attorney.
The right attorney should want to answer these questions. Because we spend an average of hundreds of hours working for each client we sign up, we want our clients to be a good fit for our practice. This requires an investment of time upfront in evaluating each and every case and prospective client—but it is well worth the effort.
Talk to an Experienced Employment Lawyer Today
At King & Siegel LLP, we have one of the leading employment discrimination and wage and hour practices in California. If you believe you have been illegally discriminated against or subjected to wage theft, our attorneys are here to help.
We provide free, confidential consultations to California workers. You should contact us as soon as possible to make sure your claim is still within the time limits set by law. Contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 465-4802 to schedule a free consultation.