“What’s better – asking for more severance without an attorney, or with one?”

Question: Before signing the severance agreement, will an employer be more likely to give additional severance requests if the employee tried to negotiate on their own, or through an attorney?

St. Petersburg, Florida

Answer: Dear N.W.: Your question seems to be capable of being answered in one word. However, it really does call for a more comprehensive answer, because there are many factors involved:       

1. Are employers more likely to offer more severance if an attorney gets involved? After almost 30 years of doing this sort of work, I would honestly say that some do, some don’t, and it depends entirely on the employee, the employer, and why the employment is coming to an end. I wish I could say “yes” or “no,” but I really cannot. 

2. We almost always encourage clients to at least attempt to get better severance on their own, without an attorney. We often say, “If you can live your life without getting lawyers and doctors involved, you are doing something right.” We strongly advocate people helping themselves, for many reasons. One is the significant cost of hiring a professional. The other is that, when attorneys get involved in business matters, most business people get anxious, and feel the need to hire their own attorneys. Then, unfortunately, no matter what the gender of the attorneys, we often witness what we call a “testosterone tournament,” a foolish clash of oversized egos. Also, so many attorneys want to bring unnecessary lawsuits, which is good for their income, and bad for yours. So, we think the first attempt at better severance should come from the employee, not the employee’s attorney.

This is the reason we offer to our Blog visitors a Model Letter Requesting More Severance. It is one of our most popular Model Letters and Memos.

If you’d like to obtain a copy of this Model Letter Requesting More Severance for your adaptation and use, just [click here].  

3. That said, many people express to us that they are not comfortable with “confrontations,” and would rather an attorney make the request for more severance. Many clients express to us that they are just not comfortable with what they think is a kind of “confrontation,” and so would rather have the request for more severance come from an attorney. Many clients also think “attorney letters” are more convincing than would be a letter from them. Sometimes they are right. In these cases, we accept that view, and then write directly on our law firm letterhead.

If you’re in that category of people who would rather use an attorney for severance negotiating, and wish to obtain the names and contact information for five or more experienced employment attorneys in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area, just [click here]. 

4. Also, an employee can say or write to their employers “I would rather not hire an attorney; can we resolve this without lawyers?” as leverage for their own request. Many employers would rather not hire attorneys, themselves, due to the cost and often adversarial nature of attorneys. So, by offering to work with the employer directly, and avoiding using attorneys, this is often an inducement for the employer to raise its severance proposal. We recommend saying that, or something close to that, in every severance request made by an employee.

5. Consider this, too: even if an attorney gets you more severance, the increase may be no greater than the legal expense. There is never any guarantee that an attorney – or anyone, for that matter – will be able to increase the severance amount. And, too, remember that, depending on how your attorney is to get paid, an attorney might get you, say, $1,000 more in severance, and charge you $2,000 to do so, depending of course on the attorneys retainer agreement. 

6. Trying on your own often gives you “a second bite of the apple”: if unsuccessful that way, then and only then you can bring an attorney into the fray. What if, on your own, you were able to get a much better severance deal: wouldn’t you be pleased with yourself? Well, why not give it a try? If you are not successful in your own efforts, you can always then hire an attorney. Just be very careful about deadlines for accepting your severance package, and consider requesting more time to consider it.

If you’d like to obtain a Model Memo requesting more time to consider your severance offer, just [click here]. 

As you can see, and as most everyone knows, our entire philosophy and practice are based on helping people do all they can to help themselves, and then helping them with the things they cannot do for themselves. That comes from our fundamental view of the employment relation that an educated, empowered and confident workforce is a motivated, inspired and productive workforce, which is truly good for all.

Thanks for writing in; please help us in our efforts by telling others of our blogsite, our YouTube videos, our helpful Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Agreements, and all else we offer.   

Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. Just [click here.] 

Repairing the World,
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™ 

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.