Employers have never been more heavily regulated and scrutinized by government authorities. How can an employer be sure it is protected? Most companies believe that that it is crucial to have a qualified labor/employment attorney available to immediately provide advice and representation. However, the legal field has never been more crowded and competitive. Choosing the lawyer with the most clever advertisement or the slickest brochure may not be the best approach. Whether you are choosing a labor/employment lawyer for the first time or deciding whether to find a new one here are the ten biggest things to avoid:
#1: Your Lawyer Fails to Return Your Call the Same Day
Employers have to deal with issues that come up quickly and without warning: harassment complaints, violence, EEOC charges, picketing, etc. And many times there is simply a question that has been bothering you—how to handle an overtime issue, or a difficult employee—and you want an answer sooner rather than later. Time and again surveys have shown that clients are unhappy with lawyers who take days to return calls or who fail to ever return calls. Be sure you select a lawyer who calls back immediately or at the latest the very next morning.
#2: You Are Not Receiving Legal Updates on a Regular Basis
New laws, new regulations, precedent setting court decisions, NLRB rulings, and government agency enforcement initiatives—they’re all happening constantly. It is very difficult for lawyers to keep up and even harder for you to keep up. You’re running the HR function or maybe even a business unit or an entire company—you need timely news and information to keep yourself and the company out of trouble. If your lawyer is not providing email legal alerts, newsletters plus a website/blog full of explanations and forms you are not being well served.
#3: Your Lawyer is Not an Expert in Labor Law
A number of general practice or corporate lawyers who help businesses have a basic understanding of some common aspects of employment law such as the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment. However in today’s legal environment a lawyer with that limited practice area cannot fully service an employer. Remember that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA applies to virtually all employers even if the company is non-union! Now the NLRB has an entire page of its website dedicated to explaining the concept of concerted activity and touting its enforcement victories against non-union companies—check it out here. Bottom line: if your lawyer is not well versed in traditional labor law, there is no way he or she can keep your handbook legal and advise you how to comply with the NLRA. (Bonus: lawyers with these skills can also help you keep your company union-free.)
Watch for Part 2 which includes discusses the critical aspects of experience, (or lack thereof).