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Whistleblower Lawyer Referral Sources

Researching the attorney

Friends, colleagues, neighbors, or even newspaper or other media accounts are traditional lawyer referral sources. Advocacy organizations also almost always make referrals. Potential clients can learn about an attorney from what he or she (or the law firm) has posted on the internet, as well as attorney listings (such as the linked Martindale-Hubbell or West legal directories), certifications or memberships, and word of mouth (other individuals as well as the attorney's own). Remember, labor law is specialized. Many experienced lawyers prefer the ordinary regional federal courts to the MSPB's arcane procedures , as well as the secrecy and unfavorable climate of the Federal Circuit, MSPB and OSC.

The MSPB and Federal Circuit regulate practitioner quality even less than other courts. They almost never name attorneys accused of incompetence or misconduct, although both regularly name employee whistleblowers. The National Lawyer Regulatory Databank will check an attorney's name against its list of completed disciplinary actions, although attorney-client problems are often not even reported to such bar programs, much less found meritorious. Mostly, legal self-regulatory organizations discipline attorneys convicted of crimes, abusing various substances, or embezzling client funds. Even where ethical violations are found, clients are rarely made whole--that's the function of the malpractice cause of action. However, finding an attorney willing to handle an attorney malpractice case may be difficult. Incomplete knowledge is, quite simply, par for the course.

Limited attorney appointment or pro bono

Hiring an attorney costs money. The only times a civil servant whistleblower does not pay are if an attorney (or agent) at the OSC or EEOC or a union representative is assigned. OSC and EEOC employees maintain primary loyalty to their agency, and union representatives to the union. The MSPB does not appoint lawyers; ditto with the Federal Circuit (unlike its regional counterparts). The Constitution only requires courts to appoint lawyers to assist actual or potential criminal defendants, never in a civil case, although the regional federal courts have limited pro bono appointment programs.

Remember: all government investigators and attorneys have large case loads. Current law does not require them to pursue any individual's charges. Unlike criminal prosecutors, who prosecute crimes even against criminals, the OSC has long cherry-picked its cases. It basically pursues only matters private attorneys or unions find profitable (i.e. the strongest cases). Plus, the agency in most cases ultimately pays for or directly defends managers accused of retaliation.

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