Looking for legal advice in NYC
May 10, 2014 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend. We are looking for a lawyer or firm that does civil litigation. Buuuuuuuuuut we need them to review the case first and say whether there is a case. Is that sort of consultation included in the (hopefully) contingency fees or would it be billed separately?

15 years ago my friend did some touring backstage work, 3.5 years total. Was, therefore, required to join Equity, which also required mandated pension deductions.

What they didn't tell her before signing the contract was that you must put in four years to get your money paid out back to you, and you must be vested in the plan at age 65 to collect.

So there's currently something like $1.2bn sitting around that Canadian actors (due to short runs, also due to being fired then rehired) put into pension plans via Equity when working in the USA, but cannot get back.

In an ideal universe, she'd want to file a class-action lawsuit against Equity. If she has a case (IANAL but I don't think she has a case at all; the contract explicitly states that all Rules and Regulations are considered to be within the scope of the contract she signed. Also, are there statutes of limitations on civil suits? Nevertheless, I feel this is a windmill worth tilting at).

So the first thing we need to do is figure out if she has a case at all. I'm assuming that's the kind of thing that takes lawyers very little time, and could probably be done by phone (with relevant documents emailed). Traveling to NYC is not, at this time, feasible.

Second, if there is a case, she needs a good lawyer who works on contingency to take this to court and get it certified as class action.

(Obviously the simpler solution is just for her to take short contracts every year in the USA until she turns 65, but that seems unlikely.)

So, given what I've laid out above, can anyone recommend a decent lawyer? TIA.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering to Law & Government (10 answers total)
I would suggest you try the New York City Bar Associations legal referral service which is free and will review your situation and give you the names of lawyers who would be suitable for your case. There would then be a 35 dollar charge for a half hour consultation with a lawyer. Half an hour should be enough to discuss whether the case is worth investigating further and how it would be billed.

Good luck!
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is the legal referral service linked to above, but from the way you phrase the question it sounds like you want the lawyer to do all the legwork of deciding whether there is a case to be had before you pay him or her for their advice. That is going to limit your pool of potential attorneys to less-qualified ones who are desperate for work.
posted by dfriedman at 8:28 AM on May 10, 2014

but from the way you phrase the question it sounds like you want the lawyer to do all the legwork of deciding whether there is a case to be had before you pay him or her for their advice.

Poor wording on my part. We'd like the lawyer(s) to do the legwork in finding out if there's a case here because IANAL and SANAL, and even if we were we know fuck-all about New York civil law. (I'm assuming the appropriate jurisdiction is? That's where the Equity Pension League is HQ'd.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:05 AM on May 10, 2014

The rules for being vested seem pretty clear, but you could try Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in NY.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:09 AM on May 10, 2014

I tried, repeatedly, to tell her that. I don't think she's going to accept any answer but 'yes,' from a lawyer.

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts sounds virtually ideal, and they're probably used to dealing with Equity.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:21 AM on May 10, 2014

You might try starting with a class action firm in Toronto. (Check your me-mail for an idea on that.) If there is a case, and there is that much money there, they can partner with a NY state firm or recommend one.
posted by girlpublisher at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2014

In the USA, it's typical for plaintiffs' class action lawyers to do free consults to see if a case is good; they are expecting their payout to come from payouts in the suits they file, not from their clients. So if your volunteer thing doesn't work out, call up a plaintiff's side employment (or, even better, pension) class action firm in NY. Plenty of hungry lawyers there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:06 AM on May 10, 2014

Plaintiffs' class action firms in the U.S. will take cases on a contingent basis, including the consultation and their investigation.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:35 AM on May 10, 2014

As for finding one, just google "plaintiffs class action firm New York" and several will appear. Look through their websites for how to contact them about a potential case.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first thing to find out is if the employee was actually making contributions to the pension out of their paycheck. That is very unusual for private pensions.

Generally the contributions to private pensions are paid only by the employer. If the contributions are paid by the employer, then the employee has no right to them if they are not vested because it isn't their money -- it is the employer's contribution.

If you look at your W-2, if you had employee contributions to the pension, they should appear in Box 12 or possibly Box 14.
posted by JackFlash at 11:46 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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