contacting employment lawyer
July 30, 2015 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I need to reach out to an employment lawyer regarding a recent discrimination-related incident at my workplace. I have the lawyer's contact information. What next?

I have been provided contact information for an employment lawyer by a friend of a friend. I have never communicated with a lawyer before and am slightly intimidated and am not sure how best to handle the initial email requesting a consultation. What do I need to say in this first email to get the conversation started?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Dear [lawyer],

I am interested in a consultation session regarding a workplace issue. What information from me would be helpful?

Thank you for your time.

[yourname, contact info]
posted by rtha at 2:16 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

rtha's draft is dead on. Just keep in mind that contacting a lawyer is basically a job interview and they're the ones trying to get hired. They need to show you that they are professionals capable of handling what you have for them. You're in charge.
posted by griphus at 2:25 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you're intimidated by email you can also just pick uph the phone and call.

Lawyers are friendly! Especially employment lawyers, who are widely known to be the friendliest lawyers of them all. Okay, that last part might be hyperbole, but any lawyer for whom you have been referred as a potential client will be nice to you.

The only thing I'd add to the script is (a) mention you were referred to them (they love this) and (b) be slightly more specific if you can about the issue. Not all employment matters are the same and if you can include more info the person you contact will appreciate it.

Dear Lawyer:

I've been referred to you, and would like to speak with you about [wrongful discharge/failure to pay overtime/my workers compensation claim/drafting a non compete]. The best way to reach me is [by this email/by phone at 555-5555]. I look forward to hearing from you.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:30 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Actually, just say it is a potential discrimination claim, since that appears to be the issue. If there is more to it they will work that out when you meet with them.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:32 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

It may also help to state who you were referred by.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2015

Call the lawyer. Speak to whoever their staff is. Explain you want to discuss a discrimination-related incident at your workplace and that so and so referred you. Make an appointment. Go to it. Bring any information you have -- workplace manuals, names/contact information for witnesses, etc. -- with you. A complete and clear chronological summary of events would likely also be helpful preparation for the appointment.
posted by bearwife at 3:13 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bearwife's got it. The more prepared you are for that initial meeting the more you'll get out of it.

I would also note that you don't have to feel obligated at all to go with the lawyer you were referred to. If you don't feel comfortable with how they're handling something or don't like their fees, it's completely okay to ask all of your questions in the initial meeting, especially about their fee schedule, and then say okay, before we move forward I want to take some time to think about what we've discussed.

You can then find a few other attorneys (either through friend's referral or something like your State Bar's Attorney Referral Service) and get a similar consultation and see how you feel about them.
posted by Karaage at 3:28 PM on July 30, 2015

MoonOrb and bearwife have offered good scripts for making your initial contact. I also recommend sitting down soon and writing a list of goals and questions.

For the goals: Reduce to two or three sentences what you hope to get out of a lawsuit as specifically as possible without worrying about whether or not the law will let you get that out of a lawsuit. Then tell the attorney what you want out of the lawsuit and ask if your expectations are reasonable and what the possible remedies are, as well as what the usual outcome is. How the attorney reacts to this question will tell you a lot about not only how they will treat you as a client but also give you some idea as to how familiar they are with claims like yours. Accept that you may want something out of a lawsuit which the law does not permit you to recover.

Every single case is unique, but the law is universal and a good lawyer will be able to picture how your unique case fits into the law as it exists.

For the questions: Ask about fee structure (hourly? flat fee? is this a claim that typically includes an award of attorney's fees?). Ask about costs (not just court filing fees but research fees, fax fees, notary fees--some firms still break these costs out and bill for them separately). Ask about the billing (is there an upfront fee? a regular billing cycle?). Ask about the firm's communication philosophy (will they update you every month, even if nothing happens? will they call or email after every court date, even it's just a continuance? Will they contact you only if they need you to read or sign something or schedule a meeting? Can a secretary or paralegal answer status questions?). Ask if they have a sense of how complicated or long the case will be (if they don't, that's not a red flag, but you can follow up with a question like: will it be easier to predict after you've talked to some witnesses? after you've been assigned a judge?)

Please try not to let the attorney intimidate you and if he or she does not treat you respect, don't accept that. Yes, the attorney is an expert and knows more about how it works than you do, but how a case works is not impossible to explain and the attorney should not act like it's a burden to answer your questions when you have set up an appointment to talk to the attorney. You don't want to be a pest or second-quess your attorney but it's okay to ask to have your questions answered.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:58 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just keep in mind that contacting a lawyer is basically a job interview and they're the ones trying to get hired. They need to show you that they are professionals capable of handling what you have for them. You're in charge.

This is true, but just to set your expectations the initial talk with an employment lawyer is often one where you will be treated with some skepticism/poking about your claim. Plaintiff-side employment lawyers get LOTS of calls from people who believe that they have a discrimination or wrongful termination claim, and because they are typically on a contingent fee basis the lawyer will want to feel like she has a solid case (and a shot at sufficiently large damages to justify the time) before accepting it. Be ready with your facts and don't be offended if they test them a bit.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:39 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

but just to set your expectations the initial talk with an employment lawyer is often one where you will be treated with some skepticism/poking about your claim.

Yes. I was going to pop in and say, don't hire them unless you are sure they believe you and want to be on your side. I asked for a lawyer recommendation here a while back to fight a wage claim. She took the case. I had all the facts on my side, and yet at the first phone call from the (blatantly lying, scumbag) CEO of my former employer, she literally took his side and dumped me.

I ended up winning the case on my own and collecting the money from the scumbags by levying their bank account, but it's worth making sure the person you hire to have your back will actually be on your side.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:16 PM on July 31, 2015

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