Things not to say to an employment lawyer

We’re a busy employment law firm.  We get tons of calls from potential clients.  Their claims run the gamut of employment law – discrimination to unpaid wages, severance and retaliation.  We try to help as many people as we can.  But there’s only so much that can be done.  If you are thinking about calling an employment lawyer, here are some things you might not want to say.

1.       This case is newsworthy.  Really?  OK, quickly, name one employment law case in the news right now.  How many can you recall ever being   in the news?  Chances are your case is not newsworthy either.  That “bad publicity” you think that your employer is afraid of, is not nearly as big of a concern as you think.  Very few cases make the news. 

2.       I am entitled to a significant payout.  More likely than not, you are entitled to nothing.  You are almost certainly an employee at will.  The only way you are entitled to compensation is if you have an agreement (e.g. contract, collective bargaining agreement, company policy, etc.).  Otherwise, you have to fight for a payout (let alone a “significant” payout).

3.       The company has tons of money.  Your company did not get “tons of money” by handing it out.  Just because your company can afford a generous settlement, does not mean that it will pay a generous settlement.  The richest companies are often the stingiest.

4.       Why did I get fired?  That’s for you to figure out.  To be sure, the role of employment lawyer includes doing an investigation.  But if you don’t have a rough theory of your case when you first call an employment lawyer, put down the phone and think things through.  To come up with a “theory of the case,” you need to think about your narrative – what happened to you at work, and why you think a lawyer should be helping you out.  Were you fired because of your age, disability, sexual orientation, medical leave?  Were you paid for all of your overtime?  If you don’t have a theory lined up before you call, you are not ready.

5.       It’s a long story.  No its not.  Maybe your whole story is a long one, but when you call an employment lawyer, cut to the chase.  “I was treated unfairly because … ,” “I was fired because … ,”  “I am entitled to compensation because … .”  These are not long stories.  Yes, of course, we will have to fill in the details, and details matter a lot, but when you first call – get right to it.  The rest can be filled in from there.