What should I think about when choosing a lawyer?
The attorney-client relationship is about trust. You have to be able to trust your lawyer, because your lawyer represents you and is the driver of your case. If you hire me, you get my full attention. Your case file will be available to you electronically 24/7, no exceptions, and I will never demand that you sign documents that you are unsure about signing. I will always give you time to think over decisions in your case. I'm not here to pressure you into doing what's best for me, I'm here to empower you.
What are some Red Flags to watch out for in meeting with attorneys?
In picking a lawyer, there are several red flags to look out for, warning signs that the attorney may not have your best interest at heart:
- an attorney who asks for a significant amount of money upfront,
- who "promises" or "guarantees" specific results,
- who wants you to sign documents that you don't understand,
- who stops responding to you,
- who gets impatient or angry if you ask questions,
- who refuses to let you have access to your own case file,
- and who wants you to sign things or make decisions on the spot, without giving you time to think about it
Your case is extremely important to you, and it should be important to your lawyer as well. Remember, if your case becomes a formal lawsuit filed in court, a record of the legal papers filed on your behalf will become public record, meaning that members of the public will be able to access them. And, once a lawsuit is filed, another lawsuit cannot be brought for the same claims against the same employer. You want to make sure that the person representing you is competent and trustworthy enough to get the job done in a professional and effective manner.
I met with a lawyer who asked for a lot of money upfront. Is that normal?
No, it is not. In employment cases, it is far more typical for lawyers and clients to enter into "contingency fee" agreements, meaning that if you don't win, I don't get paid. This is the type of agreement that I most typically recommend we enter into. There may be times when an hourly fee is appropriate, but they are more unusual. Such cases may involve the short-term negotiation of a severance package or a one-time review of an employment contract.
What do you charge?
I do not usually charge an hourly fee for my work. Instead, if we both decide to enter into an attorney-client relationship, we will reach an agreement about what portion of your winnings I will receive at the end of your case. This is called a "contingency fee," because my payment is contingent on the success of your case. This means that if you don't receive anything from your case, neither do I. If your case is resolved before a lawsuit is filed, I charge 30% of any recovery, plus any out-of-pocket costs that I spent on your case. If a lawsuit is filed in your case, I charge 40% of any recovery, plus costs, because of the difficulty, stress, and complexity of filing and pursuing a lawsuit in state or federal court. (Some attorneys charge 40% even if a lawsuit is never filed in your case. I do not do that. If your case settles before we have to go to court, I give you a discounted rate of 30%, out of fairness to you.)
You give your clients access to their case files at all times? Don't other lawyers do that?
They do not. My system is more open than any other lawyers', that I'm aware of. Rest assured, your data will only be accessible to you (of course!), but 24/7 electronic access to your case file and 100% transparency from your attorney are unique to my practice. Why? Some attorneys are afraid that if you have all of the information about your case, you will either second-guess their decisions or want to actively and intelligently participate in your own case. To these attorneys, the number one goal of your case is to make money for themselves, so they try to limit the information you receive and keep your involvement to a minimum. My approach is completely different. I want your case to be as successful as possible, but I will not keep you in the dark in order to control your decision-making. It's your case, and you deserve to know as much as possible about it.
Can a client ever fire her lawyer? Can a lawyer choose to stop representing a client?
When you hire a lawyer, you and the lawyer enter into an agreement, which means that both sides have to come to an understanding about how the relationship will proceed. If you decide that you no longer want to be represented by your attorney, it is your right to end the attorney-client relationship. At the same time, if an attorney believes that she cannot continue the attorney-client relationship, she can also choose to end the relationship, so long as the case is not "prejudiced" as a result. (This means that the attorney can't leave you in the lurch the night before your trial is set to begin, for example.) The most common reason that I have seen an attorney drop a client is because the client stops responding to communications or if it is discovered that the client lied about critical details of the case.