Employment law is a unique area of law that requires an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to handle the case in order for an employee to recover any money. But you can get quality representation in an employment case without paying a penny up front. There are five really good reasons why you shouldn't have to pay a lawyer in an employment case:
Reason #1: After losing your job, the last thing you want to do is pay a lawyer's fee on a case
As a practical matter, after someone has lost his job, money starts becoming a major concern. Whether you lived paycheck to paycheck or have a nice nest-egg in the bank, paying an attorney at $400+ an hour is not how you want to spend what money you have. The good news is, if you have an employment case, you don't have to.
Reason #2: There are many lawyers who provide free consultations for employment discrimination or whistleblower cases
In the area of employment discrimination, wrongful termination, or whistleblower cases, many attorneys provide free consultations. You can make an appointment or call an experienced attorney's office and have him or her evaluate whether you have a case. Make sure that you explain all the circumstances leading up to your termination and demotion and the people who were involved in making those decisions. Giving this information to an experienced lawyer will help them determine the viability of your case.
If a lawyer says he or she does not believe you have a good case or a case at all, be sure to ask their reasons for reaching that conclusion. You can always get a second opinion. After all, much of practicing law involves strategy, and one lawyer may see a case where another one does not.
Reason #3: If a lawyer believes in your case, he or she will be willing to put up his or her money up front to prove it
Not only do lawyers provide free consultations for employment cases, but many will be willing to take the case on what is called a "contingency fee." That is, they won't get paid unless they win some money for you. Not only is that a good idea because of reason #1 above, but a lawyer's willingness to take a case on a contingency basis says a lot about his opinion about the strength of your case.
A lawyer will not put up her own money on a case that she thinks she will lose. She simply won't take the risk if she does not see a benefit. So, hiring a lawyer that won't make you pay up front is hiring a lawyer who believes in your case and hopefully, will work hard to win it for you.
Reason #4: If a lawyer takes your employment case all the way to trial and wins, he can collect his attorney's fees from the Defendant
Certain types of laws have a "fee shifting" provision. What that means is, if a person goes to court and wins his case, the other side has to pay his attorney's fees on top of whatever award he is given. While many employment cases in New Jersey settle, some end up going to trial. Most employment laws in New Jersey have a fee-shifting provision; so, if your lawyer wins your case, he won't take a percentage of what you are awarded by a jury but rather will get paid his fee from the defendant.
Reason #5: Most people who are wrongfully terminated, demoted, or retaliated against do not have a case
Lastly, employment law is a tricky area of law. Most employees are considered at will. That means, an employer can fire someone for no reason at all, demote him, or be outright nasty to him, and there still would not be an employment case. Unfortunately, the law only protects against discrimination and retaliation in specific situations.
So, as a summary of the reasons mentioned above, you shouldn't pay an employment lawyer upfront to represent you because you may not have a case at all. An attorney who just takes your money may not be completely honest with you about the strength of your case and may just be making a quick buck off of you. On the other hand, he may simply lack the knowledge in the area of employment law and may not realize that you don't have a good case.
If you are in New Jersey and think you have an employment case against your employer or former employer, call me for a free consultation. I have handled a number employment cases and evaluated hundreds of potential cases. I would be happy to listen to your story and give you with an honest and thorough evaluation based on your specific set of facts.