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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: AnonymousStash on February 09, 2019, 10:38:00 PM

Title: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on February 09, 2019, 10:38:00 PM
I am going into an EEOC mediation with a former employer over a racial discrimination claim.  I think I probably need some legal representation, at a minimum in the mediation. 

Do you all have any experience with cost effective ways to hire a lawyer? 

I had a couple lawyers who offered to take my case on contingency back when this all went down but I decided not to engage one then.  I wasn't interested in a drawn out lawsuit.  One lawyer I talked with was familiar with my employer and told me they wouldn't settle without drawing blood and causing me some pain.  The expected value of a victory, minus legal fees just didn't seem worth a long drawn out, emotionally draining legal battle. 

But now, my employer is offering  to participate in EEOC mediation.  What I most want is an apology and the opportunity to possibly work for them again in the future.   I doubt they will offer this though.

I was thinking I could pay a lawyer by the hour to read up on my case and join me in mediation.  But then if we don't settle and I don't want to pursue it, I would be out thousands of dollars.  I don't know if my employer is mediating in good faith or just wants free discovery.   

It doesn't seem fair to a lawyer to offer to pay them on contingency knowing I might decide not to pursue a lawsuit.  I also worry that paying on contingency sets up incentives to go for the largest $$ amount rather than pushing for solutions that might get me better closure.  Also 30% seems like a lot if we end up settling in a day. 

Does anyone have experience on the best way to go about this?  I could go to the mediation alone but I feel like I'm in way over my head and I don't understand all the ins and outs of the law here.

Anonymous Stash
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: YttriumNitrate on February 10, 2019, 09:20:13 AM
My firm does about 80% of their work on contingency (not in the area of your matter), and I can say the absolute last thing we want is a long drawn-out fight. We would MUCH MUCH prefer the 30% settling-in-a-day case you mentioned even if it the settlement is fraction of what we might get after a nine year legal fight.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: Padonak on February 10, 2019, 09:26:34 AM
Which state are you in?
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on February 10, 2019, 10:15:22 AM
YttriumNitrate - thanks, that's helpful.  Do you guys also do hourly work?

Padonak - I'd rather not provide too many specifics that could identify me.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 10, 2019, 10:27:07 AM
You should get a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. The remedies usually involve award of attorneys' fees, so if you discharge your lawyer, he/she will have kept track of their time, and they will charge you their hourly rate.

Employment law can be a complicated mess because the federal and state laws overlap. Screw these up and you may waive your claims in one forum or another, thus limiting your remedies, thus limiting your leverage, and thus hurting you in the long run. A good lawyer will also know the pressure points for the employer that largely deal with procedure. Pulling these levers has got my clients a bunch of extra money and largely paid for the fee and more.

I personally offer my clients a graduated fee. If we settle prior to filing, itís 27.5 percent. If I have to file, itís 33.33 percent. And if I have to try the case, itís 40 percent. 

Finally, since this forum is about ďfacepunches,Ē I will be honest ó it would likely be absolutely moronic to try and DIY this and not hire a lawyer. And I feel very, very, very strongly about that.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: civil4life on February 10, 2019, 10:48:20 AM
My lawsuit started with an original offer to go to mediation.

When I hired my lawyer we had a contract for pre-litigation.  It was an hourly rate with a lower contingency rate.

My employer decided not to mediate.

I contemplated for a long time before filing my lawsuit.  When I decided to file a lawsuit I signed a new contract with my lawyer with the main difference being the contingency was a bit higher.

I would suggest finding a lawyer to attend the mediation.  If you really only want an apology etc.  The best chance of getting that is through mediation and a lawyer that will fight for you.

Additionally, I would not even consider going back to this employer.  Even if the mediation goes well, you will never be treated fairly

You could consider also asking for a positive reference as you look for a new job.  Have them develop new policies or training.

Edit to add below:

Also there are many deadlines and filings etc. that need to be done to maintain your rights.  For example in my case, I worked for the state gov.  In order to sue the state you have to file a claim stating you plan to sue within a year of the incident.  This is separate from the filing of the lawsuit.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on February 10, 2019, 04:16:34 PM
Civil4Life - I just spent some time reading your old posts on your lawsuit.  I am so sorry you are going through that. 
Did they pull out of mediation once you hired a lawyer?  I can totally see my employer doing something like that.  They have a stable of in house lawyers too.

ReadySetMillionaire - You are probably right about the face punch.  I will set up a time to talk to a lawyer about what my options are now.  I probably should have hired one back when it happened.  My fear is that once I start to use a lawyer, I will owe them so much that I won't want to discharge them without some resolution which could end up drawing me farther into a lawsuit that I don't want. 

Depending on how things go, I want to be free to flip this employer off and walk away and share my story.  I don't need the money.  I doubt they will offer me enough to make up for what happened.  Even though what I want most is an apology, I won't settle and stay silent for some small token amount, which means mediation may fail.

I know someone else who had a similar experience there recently who already made this employer roll out training so that base is covered.  I started another job right away, though I took a pay cut.  The positive reference could be useful.

Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: civil4life on February 10, 2019, 05:06:16 PM
My lawyer warned me that the typical strategy is to drag things out, challenge every motion, and basically getting the person to give up.

Unfortunately my lawsuit is no where near over.  We are in discovery and it has been extended 4 or 5 times.  The original deadline was March of last year.  The current deadline is 3.1.19.  However, I think there is a possibility for it to be delayed again.

At this point I have spent so much money that quitting really is not an option. 

Since I am still in the middle of litigation I do not want to put a huge amount of detail on here.  Feel free to PM me if you would like to know more.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: ares99 on February 10, 2019, 05:33:48 PM
My firm only takes the type of cases that can be handled on a contingency fee basis. Frankly, I think it's refreshing for my clients to know they can email/call me or my staff as much as they want and not have to worry about getting a bill for every call or email. My wife once told me, "No one knows how much time you guys put in with your clients." She had a co-worker that had a legal issue that was being billed hourly. The co-worker limited the times she called her attorney because she was worried about the hourly charges.  Not saying there is anything wrong with billable hours. Just pointing this out because I know there is a misconception out there that contingency fee attorneys do little work and get a big part of the settlement or judgment. I can assure you there are very few large settlements or judgments that don't involve a substantial amount of time by the attorneys and their staff. 

I'm not trying to tell you what to do in your situation but I can tell you that in most cases the contingency fee is the best option for the attorney and the client. Your attorney doesn't get paid unless they get something for you so the attorney wants to maximize your recovery. And you never have to worry about owing your attorney more than what you're getting or having to pay an attorney's fee if you lose the case.  Finally, always remember that the decision to accept or reject a settlement offer belongs to the client. I tell every one of my clients that I will give my best advice as to whether to accept or reject a settlement offer but the final decision is always up to them. Some clients just donít want to go to court even if we tell them there's a good chance they could do a lot better than the settlement offer. 

We occasionally get requests to do limited work on an hourly basis. We generally do not agree to do so. Usually these are situations where someone wants to pay for a few hours of time and then handle the case on their own the rest of the way. While that sounds like a good idea, attorneys have to consider that once we are officially retained we are on the hook for potential legal malpractice if something goes wrong down the road. If the final result turns out bad, the former client could claim they based their decisions on what we told them during the limited representation. Also, a few hours of time is usually not sufficient to thoroughly explore all aspects of the case and review whatever documents are involved. (And during an initial meeting there are frequently crucial documents that the client forgets to bring with them...In my experience, these tend to be documents that are harmful to their position.) Like most firms, we will gladly give a free consultation and give a general overview of the process so someone can decide whether they want to hire an attorney or not. In fact, I met with someone Friday for a free consultation. I let her know she could hire us if she wanted but at the end of the day she would probably just be paying me a third to get what she could get on her own without an attorney.  So she left with the understanding I'd be glad to take the case but she is going to try to wrap it up on her own first. 

Hope this info is helpful.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on February 10, 2019, 10:17:06 PM
ares99, this is extremely helpful.  thank you. 
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: Telecaster on February 11, 2019, 10:30:50 AM

But now, my employer is offering  to participate in EEOC mediation.  What I most want is an apology and the opportunity to possibly work for them again in the future.   I doubt they will offer this though.

My experience with the legal system is that it rarely provides satisfying outcomes, for anybody.   I urge you to consider what your goals really area.  You've been wronged.  Would an insincere apology really help with that?   Getting that apology will be a stressful, time consuming, possibly expensive undertaking.  Maybe your best outcome is to simply move on. 
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on October 07, 2019, 10:13:03 PM
I wanted to follow up and say thank you to everyone who gave me advice, encouragement and face punches.   

I did hire a lawyer to handle the mediation.  I paid him by the hour.  I got lucky and it ended up costing about 80% less than I would have paid him on contingency.  I saved a ton of $$ even though it was a risk.  My stress level dropped as soon as I hired a lawyer and didn't feel so alone.  The lawyer was phenomenal. In the mediation he pointed out all kinds of legal and procedural things that impressed the mediator.   
I'd gotten a couple estimates on what to expect as a settlement and I ended up above the high end of the range so I think I did ok money wise. 

Emotionally, it wasn't very satisfying.  It still feels deeply unfair.  They kept the manager and pushed me out.  No amount of money was ever going to make up for that.  I am glad that I stood up and said something and didn't just walk away but I wish there had been a way to change the company culture. 

Thank you to everyone who gave me thoughtful and helpful advice. 
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: civil4life on October 08, 2019, 10:20:43 AM
That is great news!

Sounds like the lawyer paid off.  His expertise probably scared the employer a bit and made settlement more palatable.

I wish mine would have been able to end that way.  At least it is moving again.

The stress relief is worth it alone. 

Hopefully somewhere down the line karma will catch up with the old boss.
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: AnonymousStash on October 08, 2019, 06:35:36 PM
Thanks Civil4Life,

I am glad your case is moving again.  Hopefully it will wrap up or they will settle soon!

Having a lawyer definitely helped.  I had been focusing on everything they'd done that was unfair but he just focused on what was blatantly illegal.  It was very effective.  I am hoping as time goes by that the memories and hurt fade while the $$$ keeps generating more $.   

I am very grateful we were able to reach a settlement.  I'm also very grateful I found such a competent lawyer who was so kind about making the most of his time.  When I checked my phone log there were 30 minute conversations that he just didn't charge me for.  During the all day mediation, when the mediator wasn't with us and I didn't have questions, he did other work so I didn't end up paying him for the entire day.  I was ready to pay him out of pocket and walk away if I needed to, but I got very very lucky.

Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: Padonak on October 08, 2019, 06:59:33 PM
I have a general question about discrimination claims. What kind of evidence is enough for a claim to have a good chance of succeeding?

-A 'smoking gun', 100% bullet proof evidence, such as a text message or email from your boss using a racial slur against you?
-A witness testimony from another colleague saying that you manager made racist, sexist, ageist, etc comments in meetings?
-Your statements about what happened and what behavior you consider discriminatory even though there are no witnesses or paper trail?

Obviously it's rare to have witnesses or written records of discrimination unless you are dealing with idiots at work. Does it mean that all other discrimination cases are he-said-she-said with no chance of success?
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: civil4life on October 09, 2019, 03:09:21 PM
@Padonak the simpilist answer is that it depends.

In a civil case regarding discrimination the level of proof is the "preponderance of the evidence"  The standard is met if the proposition is more likely to be true than not true. The standard is satisfied if there is greater than fifty percent chance that the proposition is true.  The evidence does not need to be as strong as in criminal case with beyond a reasonable doubt.  In any case these are still very vague answers.

The severity of the act, pervasiveness, harm it causes all impact the situation.

As I have kind of learned that even with a smoking gun it can be very challenging.  Employment law is very complicated.

First thing if there is discrimination going on the first thing is making hr/management aware and follow up with them to make sure they do something with it.  You will want to find a way to document this.  Email, Journal, Memo, recorded phone call (be aware of your state laws regarding recording others, my state requires all recorded parties to know they are being recorded.)

Depending on the type of discrimination if nothing is done and maybe you want to give them another chance go back to management/hr again. 

You will want to document this as best you can.  When I was tracking stuff I sent myself emails with the details like who, where, what, when etc.  Then it had a date stamp.

If your company has a formal grievance policy you may need to work through that first.  Actually you probably want to start there and see what policies related to discrimination are in place.

At this point there are many directions you can go.  This is probably the point where you may want to at a minimum have a consultation with a lawyer.  They can better inform you of local requirements or ways to still handle it at the company level.  Sometimes a strongly worded letter from a lawyer can make a big difference.

Then you could go to your state or federal level and file a complaint.  Some smaller municipalities have Equal Opportunity offices you can make complaints too.  Also, if you belong to a union.

Usually you have to exhaust all of your efforts with the state and federal eeoc before you can file any kind of lawsuit.

I am not sure if the ACLU or some other organization may be able to assist either.

Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: mavendrill on October 10, 2019, 06:56:01 PM
I have a similar question:
I have been thinking about suing a past-employer for wage theft.  It is for around 5k.  My case should be mostly simple - we have different interpretations of what a contract says (which is the bulk of the claim - hypothetically I could also pursue guaranteed bonuses, but that seems a lot more complicated for relatively little payoff).  Is this type of scenario one where contingency is a good idea?
Title: Re: Cost effective legal representation
Post by: civil4life on October 11, 2019, 01:09:29 PM
Again you really need to check with a lawyer in your state.  Personally knowing how much mine is costing $5k is not worth it.  You probably would not be able to get a lawyer to take the case because there really is not much of a payout. 

May be something for a small claims court?