Step-by-Step Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working With Employment Lawyers
Whether you are a small business seeking to ensure that your staff handbook is legally solid or an employee who has been wrongfully terminated, an employment lawyer may be your best resource. This legal specialty was developed to help both employers and employees understand and work within federal and state employment laws. Our step-by-step instructions can help you find the best employment lawyer for your needs.
1. Determine the scope of your complaint
Before you begin your search, make sure you understand what you want an employment lawyer to do for you. There are multiple categories of employment law. One or more may apply to your case. These include civil rights issues, family and medical leave issues, workers’ compensation, labor relations, workplace safety issues, and immigration employment issues. The lawyer you choose should have experience in the area that pertains to your complaint.
2. Ask for recommendations
Ask family and friends for recommendations, and, unless your issue is of a private nature, use your social media connections to gather information on lawyers who might be willing to help you. If someone you know has had a good experience with a particular law firm, go to their website to see if the firm has employment lawyers on staff. However, be cautious about asking around at work if you believe your employer has committed an illegality — if that’s the case, you want to avoid making accusations in public before your case has been handled.
3. Research at your local legal aid office
Google “employment law” and your city or town. If there is a legal aid office in your region, check out their website to see if they feature a directory of lawyers. If your issue is a civil rights matter, reach out to advocacy organizations such as the NAACP for a local recommendation. In the digital age, you may even find someone who is not in your area but who will take on your case virtually.
4. Schedule consultations
When you have a list of possible lawyers, make some phone calls and schedule initial consultations, either in person or via Zoom. Prepare for the consultation by creating a timeline of your issue and gathering any documents pertaining to it, from contracts to emails. If your issue is medical in nature, bring all applicable health records. Get a feel for the lawyer’s personality and style at the meeting. Ask yourself: Can I trust this person? Are they answering my questions clearly? Are they promising anything that seems too good to be true?
5. Make your choice and sign a contract
After the meeting, it’s time to review what you’ve learned and choose the best person for the job. Your pick should be someone you felt comfortable with and who seemed eager and willing to help you, but did not make promises that would be difficult to keep. Once you’ve made your choice, you will probably be asked to sign a contract that will detail what is required of both parties, along with a suggested timeline for completion. You may have to pay some money at the signing, but you will not be required to pay the full amount at that point.
The Cost of Employment Lawyers
Your employment lawyer has a few options when it comes to charging you. You may pay an hourly rate, which will likely be between $150 and $500, although this may be cheaper if you work with an independent lawyer not affiliated with a large law firm. Or they may charge a contingency fee, which means they keep a portion (usually between 33-40 percent) of any settlement that is decided upon, whether it happens pretrial or via a jury award. Your settlement in any case may be limited due to employment laws. You may only be allowed to collect lost wages and benefits, or you may be allowed to ask for a cost for pain and suffering — this will vary from state to state. You may also be liable for taxes with any earnings from a lawsuit. If your lawyer is working for a contingency fee, they may stipulate that you pay all extraneous expenses, such as filing fees, but this is something that should be stated clearly in your contract. Ask up front if you have any questions about the full extent of the fees you will be charged.
- SHRM Resource page. Visit this website, geared toward human resource professionals, featuring a resources section with practical information on employment law, benefits, diversity initiatives, and labor relations.
- American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Pro Bono Resources. Search a compendium of sites with information on lawyers and legal services that operate on a pro bono or sliding scale basis. Other resources available as well.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Visit this site to access a Q&A on federal laws that prohibit job discrimination, including the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act.