Author: Daniel A. Lublin
If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score – Vince Lombardi
When it comes to winning a battle with your former employer, the most important decision you make is selecting the proper lawyer.
Most lawyers argue that the success or failure of a case, is predicated on a combination of the facts and merits of the claim, the prevailing law, the financial and psychological stability of the parties, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the counsel involved and, not least, some luck. In my view, however, luck should have little or no impact on the ultimate outcome of negotiations or a lawsuit. Rather, great preparation, diligent research, foresight and an infallible strategy is a prescription for winning the case that will compensate for even the worst twists of fate.
Just as these factors will influence the decisions your lawyer will make during the course of your case, the most important decision begins with your own: selecting a proper lawyer. With countless factors to consider, it is no wonder that finding the ideal lawyer to navigate your case is a difficult, if not overwhelming, task. Opting for the right lawyer should be based on common sense, diligence, research and a sense of chemistry. With that said, I offer the following advice to help you select a winner:
Don’t go with a dabbler:Many lawyers maintain a diverse practice, balancing a variety of different types of legal files. Employment law, however, is a very specialized field where devising a successful strategy for the file requires a comprehensive understanding of the law and a battle-tested background. Therefore, inquire what percentage of the lawyer’s time is spent on employment law matters or otherwise.
Don’t be fooled by advertising: a lawyer’s quality is not always transparent upon viewing his or her website or other advertising mediums. Internet based advertising allows lawyers to pay for their ranking on internet search engines, which is not always reflective of the quality of the lawyer or firm or the actual number of visitors to the site. Therefore, I suggest you peruse a number of websites and pay particular attention to the content of the advertising, not just the ranking or form.
Schedule a consultation:Once you have short listed your potential candidates, contact the lawyer’s office and schedule a consultation. Most firms will charge a fee to meet with a client for the first time. Generally, lawyers that give free consultations are much more reluctant to provide the specific legal advice you need to make an informed decision about your case.
Evaluate the lawyer:Upon meeting with a lawyer, you should consider: how well they listen to you, whether they understand the problem and the law and whether you remain confident that your legal issue will be solved in a cost effective manner. As relationships between counsel and client can sometimes make or break the case, it is of prime importance that you choose a lawyer who you trust and have developed an excellent rapport with.
Ask for references: The best references are former clients or other lawyers practicing different areas of law. You should ask to contact references who can comment on the lawyer’s skills and trustworthiness.
Money Matters: If asked, a lawyer should predict to the best of his or her ability the potential costs of your case. You should also review the lawyer’s retainer agreement and discuss the lawyer’s billing practices. Many billing methods are used for the payment of legal fees, and a lawyer’s flexibility is an advantage to consider.
Common sense: It goes without saying, but your instincts are usually your best self-defence.