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Choosing a Whistleblower Attorney--advertisers not recommemded.

Referral Sources--do not hire advertisers here

Note: Tripod/yahoo has changed its terms of service to require banner ads in addition to suppressable popups. The author has no say over the ads, gets no money from them, and in fact recommends against hiring any advertiser on these pages. To continue: The employment retaliation context may be the first time a particular person has ever hired a private attorney. Because most people want whistleblowing activities kept confidential (knowing they can damage future job or career prospects), word-of-mouth referrals are often difficult, if not impossible. Bar associations, whistleblower organizations, unions and professional associations, family and friends are all potential referral sources. Advocacy organizations often also make referrals. Again: Tripod/yahoo has changed its terms of service to require banner ads. The author has no say over the ads, gets no money from them in no way endorses these potential service providers, and in fact recommends against hiring any advertiser on these pages.

Interviews and Preparation

Interviewing can make a difference. Many employees facing retaliation simply want an attorney who claims expertise and promises to take care of this problem for them. An attorney's positive attitude is reassuring. Many attorneys prefer docile rather than empowered clients, which can create long-run problems if they do not disclose their own economic interests and biases as well as experienced analysis.Remember that attorneys can be slick when selling themselves, but less diligent or willing to explain their recommendations after being hired and starting to run up a bill. A paternalistic policy may in fact disserve clients. Remember, several courts hold clients to the legal standards of attorneys (and may not hold attorneys accountable at all). Therefore, a client who trusts agency and attorney promises may not realize that the attorney is not doing his job until post-settlement problems hit. Some problems can be avoided by preparing a short memorandum summarizing the case before seeking legal advice, interviewing several attorneys, and then comparing and clarifying their responses before hiring one. Of course, whistleblowers upset by retaliation may be least willing or able to prepare for this decision, which has significant economic, career and legal consequences. This may well be the worst time to rely on "gut instincts."

Quality Control outside the Interview

A big part of an attorneys' job is considering the downside consequences, including years down the road. This negative thinking based on the case law and experiences of dissatisfied employees and employers is designed to assist clients to avoid unpleasant future consequences. However, some attorneys prefer to ignore the future, and thus can misadvise their clients. While this may constitute misconduct in other legal specialties, courts here may prefer an ostrich or blame-the victim approach. Thus, self-help may be the key.

Fees

Fees may well be the prime source of conflict between any attorney and client. The whistleblower context may magnify this because many whistleblowers already feel victimized. Many also do not want to pay for legal services when they have not only not done wrong, but have committed a socially courageous and useful act in whistleblowing. Fees mount quickly and can quickly feel like an albatross or force settlements, particularly for those not union members. However, only in some qui tam cases (and government employees rarely qualify under that statute) will attorneys often accept cases on a contingency basis (with the majority of the fees due only if the employee wins). Even then, the client is usually responsible for court costs. Although some lawyers prefer to avoid discussing fee issues upfront (or ignore the promises made at the outset), this can leave the employee feeling doubly victimized--by the attorney and agency.

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