“How do I pick a good employment attorney to represent me?”

Question: I have filed a claim of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Now I feel I need to hire an attorney who will see this through to filing a lawsuit if necessary. I am at a loss trying to determine what to look for in choosing a discrimination employment lawyer or law firm in my area that will put forth 100% in defending my rights.

My case has merit, but if it is not presented appropriately the company will get away with shameless discrimination again. What remedy am I looking for . . . what’s most important to me at this point is a monetary judgment in my favor.

How do I choose an attorney or firm that will help me make this happen? Small firm versus large firm? Individual attorney? Out of pocket versus contingency?

For the past several weeks I have lived on your website. It has been a source of encouragement and support during this stressful time. I am in the midst of life changing events and decisions. I want to do this right. Thank you, in advance.

Lenexa, Kansas

Answer: Dear Norma: First, thank you for your “return words of encouragement and support.” My purpose in creating, maintaining and developing this blogsite is to give people hope and help in standing up for what is right in their work. I’m glad to hear from you that it is working as I hope it does. 

The subject of your letter is a very important one, and your questions are really good ones.  In fact, the subject of your letter is one I have been planning on writing about in a future newsletter. In addition, I think about your question when hiring attorneys to work for me at my firm. In my upcoming monthly newsletter and video, these topics will be treated in greater depth.

Here, though, is a summary of my thoughts on what you should look for:   

1. A Belief in Your Case: No matter how good an attorney may be, if he or she does not “believe” in a case, his or her work on it will be lackluster, unimaginative and passionless.  Share the facts of what happened, and share, too, your goals. Listen to the attorney’s response, and watch his or her eyes.  

2. Experience in Handling Issues/Cases Like Yours: There is simply no substitute for experience when it comes to matters that require considerable judgment, which is something lawsuits do require. Look for an attorney who has already learned from his or her mistakes, and successes, while working for others in your circumstances.  

3. A Caring, Concerned Quality: Though this may sound trite, it’s important to find an attorney who cares, first and foremost, about you. That’s not an easy person to find. Many aspects of litigation require that decisions be made that affect not only your case, but your life, your reputation, your family, your career, your finances and maybe even your health.  

4. An Aggressive / Creative Streak: Thinking – and acting – “outside the box” is a quality I seek when hiring attorneys to work for me. Or, at least, an ability and willingness to do so.

5. I suggest “Part Hourly, Part Contingency”:  I believe that an arrangement with an attorney is best structured as part hourly and part contingency. That is because such an arrangement aligns the interests of both. Said different, this places the attorney and the client “in the same boat,” as the longer the case goes on, the more “resources” (your money and the attorney’s time) it will require of each. At the same time it makes attorney and client both happy to reach a good settlement.

6. Firm Size Does Not Matter:  Over the years I have seen solo attorneys and small firms do just as good work, and quite often better work, than their larger counterparts. Though some people think large firms have better lawyers, I have come to doubt that very much. It is the individual, and the individual’s character, skills and experience that matter to me.

7. Local Counsel Usually Helps:  I do think that attorneys and law firms that reside where you reside do have an advantage in that they tend to have helpful relations in and related to the local legal system that can be of advantage to you.

8. I Prefer “Employee-Only” Advocates:  If I was seeking an attorney to handle an “adversarial” matter like yours is, I would prefer to hire an attorney who only represents employees, and does not assist employers. That is the way my firm operates, and many of our clients tell us that this was an important reason they chose to use our services.   

Of course, no one or two single factors should guide your decision; all facts and factors should be considered. Likewise, this list is not exhaustive, but only a summary of my thoughts.

In the “Model Letters, Memos and Agreements” section of our blogsite, we offer a Model Letter Seeking Information from a Prospective Attorney Prior to Retention. If interested in obtaining this Model Letter [click here.]

I sure hope this has been helpful to you. My very best in your quest.

Thanks for writing in, and I am glad you enjoy the blog. Please consider subscribing to receive our posts – it’s free. If this was helpful, please tell a friend.

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in your city, just [click here]. Delivered by Email – Instantly!

©  2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.