Living my life as an exclamation, not an explanation...


It should be noted by readers that Absinthe is not a lawyer, and anything posted in this blog should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a lawyer

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  Thursday, April 03, 2008

Another old post that has disappeared is one I wrote about working with your attorney towards successful resolution of your lawsuit.

In the previous post I talked about how you can go about using the PACER system to find a good attorney who is experienced in fighting (and winning) discrimination lawsuits against your university.  If you use PACER and fail to find an attorney who has successfully fought a discrimination lawsuit against your university, try looking for discrimination cases filed against other universities in your vicinity.

Call up prospective attorneys.  Be warned that many law firms will not take cases against state entities (if you are employed by a state university, this applies to you).  This is because state universities are usually represented by the State Attorney General's office, and thus they effectively have infinitely deep litigation pockets. 

If you are rejected outright by some law firms, don't get discouraged.  Also don't get discouraged if they don't return your calls if you leave voice mail or speak to an intake coordinator.  Try again up to three times, and then give up if they still don't get back to you.

Before you start calling, you should try to write down a summary of your case that consists of a paragraph or two.  In the initial phone call the attorneys don't want to hear your life story.  They want the quick and dirty on what happened to you, and a short summary of the evidence you have to support it.

Make a list of a bunch of attorneys.  Don't just pin your hopes on one or two.  If an attorney turns you down for some legitimate reason, ask them if they can suggest other attorneys you might call.

Be warned that pretty much no employment attorney will take your case pro bono; reality is that no one cares as much about your case as you think they should (sorry to sound harsh, but that is reality).  In fact, most lawyers won't even take discrimination cases on a contingency or even partial contigency basis.  Plaintiffs prevail in only about 25% of employment discrimination lawsuits because rare is the lawsuit that has smoking gun evidence of discrimination or harassment.  Attorneys don't like those odds, so they will insist you pay a hefty retainer up front (anywhere from $10k to $25k or even more) and they will also charge you hefty hourly legal fees.  My attorney charges me $350/hour but I have had prices as high as $600/hour quoted to me. 

Again, I am sorry if I am giving anyone a reality check here, but starting a lawsuit is very, very expensive and usually can only be done if you have significant assets socked away somewhere.  If you have just been discriminated against or egregiously sexually harassed you have my deepest sympathy if you cannot afford to bring on a lawsuit. 

Once you have retained an attorney, the first step is writing a complaint, which is the initial document that is filed and served on the defendants.  It gets the lawsuit started.  As mentioned in the previous post, do not let you attorney write this for you without massive input from you.  Also insist on having the final edit.  In the last post I gave tips on how to write a succesful complaint.  I also talk about this in detail in a former post you can find here

As your lawsuit progresses, phone your attorney for regular updates if he/she does not phone you.  Also, use PACER to keep up with what is going on in your case.  I am not the only person I know who has discovered via PACER lawsuit activity that my attorney had not apprised me of.  My attorney is good, but he is busy and he sometimes forgets to tell me everything.  When I find out about something happening related to my lawsuit on PACER, I call him up and talk to him about it.

A number plaintiffs I've come across who did not have successful resolution to their lawsuits were unhappy with their attorney because they felt that the attorney just kind of ran the lawsuit but didn't give a damn to run it well.  Upon further questioning, it was clear that these people did not insist in having a say in how their lawsuit was handled.  Would you pay a contracter $25k to do work on your house, then go away for several months leaving that person unsupervised and expect to find good results upon your return?  Of course not.  Paying an attorney $25k and then just sitting back and letting him/her just work without your input is equivalent.  Be an active participant in your lawsuit!.

As your lawsuit progresses you will get billing statements from your attorney..sometimes monthly, sometimes sporadically.  It depends on the attorney and/or lawfirm.  Look through the bill and if something seems really not right, give them a call.  I had one bill for $14k (that had followed a bill from the previous month for $10k) that nearly made me pass out.  Upon careful inspection, they had made a clerical error and massively overcharged me for the services of the paralegal (they had charged her services at the same rate as my attorney's services, $350/hour instead of $100/hour).  They in fact had made the same mistake on the previous couple of bills but I hadn't caught it then and had just paid them because that was an extremely active time in my lawsuit where the attorney and his team were literally spending full work weeks on my case.  Once all the dust settled, it turned out that instead of me owing them $14k, they owed me a couple of hundred dollars.

I think most attorneys are likely generally fair in their time estimates so I wouldn't go overboard contacting your attorney over whether or not he/she spent 30 minutes as opposed to 20 minutes working on some aspect of your case. Just be aware to look your bills over carefully.

Try to have a polite cordial working relationship with your attorney.  If you are unhappy with something (like them not contacting you in a timely manner about details of your case) let them know, but be nice.  You attorney is working for you and it doesn't help for that relationship to be acrimonious (I know a few people who developed bad relationships with their attorneys, and it really didn't help their lawsuit).


9:24:04 AM    comment []

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