If you landed on this blog post, you are probably looking to retain an employment lawyer or employment law firm, and you are doing your due diligence. Good for you. Never hire a lawyer without doing research. You need to be meticulous. If you are an employee, you are trusting someone with one of the biggest issues you have ever had in your life. If you are an employer, you are trusting someone to efficiently and effectively handle an issue that could hurt your business if not done properly.
How not to Review an Employment Lawyer
Do not trust Google to do your employment lawyer research for you. Google does not review lawyers. Rather, Google only displays the most ‘relevant’ employment lawyer or law firm websites, not the best.
Accordingly, do not blindly hire the first lawyer or law firm ranked on Google (that’s not to say there is anything wrong with the first place lawyer or law firm, just do your research beyond Google). Google only placed the lawyer or law firm there because its bot thinks it is the most ‘relevant’ website for the ‘keyword’ you used. To that end, the law firm is obviously the best at Search Engine Optimization (SEO); its just not so obvious they are the best at employment law.
For instance, Google the “best lawyer in Toronto for [practice area]”, and you will see that the first several websites stuff the word “best lawyer” on their webpage in some form or another that doesn’t break Law Society rules, like “we aim to be the best lawyers in [city]”. The Google bot previously crawled the words ‘best’ and the ‘[city name]’ and the word ‘lawyer’ on the lawyer or law firm website and figured this was the website you were looking for because it was the most relevant on a textual level. The same rule applies for other phrases like “top lawyer” or “leading lawyer” or “[city]” lawyer etc.
How to Review an Employment Lawyer
Rather, you should be using Google to find a few different employment lawyers or law firms on a few different pages. Check out the first place lawyer if you like, but also check out rank 6, 17, 29, etc.
Once you have landed on the lawyer or law firm’s website, start doing your research. Consider the following factors as very important:
Speciality in Employment Law
Does the lawyer or law firm focus on employment law exclusively? This is key. Unless the lawyer has been practising for many years, he or she might not be very good at employment law if they dabble in every area of the law. To understand the nuances of employment law, a lawyer needs to focus on it exclusively for some time. Otherwise, you might be paying them to learn the law. Worse, they might not know certain caveats because they never encountered your issue before. Would you hire a plumber to fix your car?
If I am representing an employer, and I get a demand letter from a divorce lawyer for a wrongful dismissal case, I’m not going to take it seriously. I will immediately assume this is your family friend who is doing
On the flipside, if I am representing an employee, and the other side is some general corporate lawyer at a large firm or in-house counsel generalist, I assume I am dealing with someone not nearly as adept at employment law as me. I’ve had settlement discussions that could have been shut down by opposing counsel citing a single case most employment lawyers know by heart, but they failed entirely to mention it, and thus I convinced them to settle for an extraordinary amount because of their near negligence. I’ve also seen some employers take obvious 100% losing cases to trial that any employment lawyer would have warned them about, and it ended up costing them hundreds of thousands in needless legal fees (however, to the generalist lawyers’ credit, some employers will refuse competent advice to proceed on crappy cases, and I don’t know what happened in those cases).
Expertise on Employment Law
It is difficult to know if someone is truly an expert in employment law even if they say they are. However, to verify someone is knowledgeable on the law, consider first if they regularly write about the law. Did they write a textbook, do they keep an updated blog, do they write for trade journals and other news sites? These are usually good indicators that someone knows what they are doing because it shows they took the time to research and then summarize the law on an issue relevant to employment, thus teaching themselves modern employment law.
Also, check if the lawyer has ever litigated an employment law case. To that end, check CanLII to see if they have a record indicating they have ever been in front of a judge (note CanlII does not show all cases). Do not however rely too heavily on if the lawyer won or lost. What counts is that they attend at litigation matters. The fact is, many good lawyers represent parties with losing cases. For example, the reality of litigation for management lawyers is often to limit the Plaintiff’s damages, not win the case.
Also, check if the lawyer is a “Certified Specialist” by the Law Society. But, know that these certificates are reserved for only the most senior members of the bar. There are many less experienced lawyers just as good (and usually less expensive).
Also, consider if the lawyer has ever won an award. However, be very aware of fake or dubious awards. I’m not going to name names (because I don’t want to be sued or disparage honest lawyers who genuinely take pride in these awards) but many lawyers advertise bogus awards (which makes me question their credibility and judgment frankly). I know they are bogus because the same award companies offered me the same award or “ranking” in exchange for money or a backlink to their website. Sometimes all you have to do is buy the trophy to earn the award. Also, know that the more reputable awards or “rankings” tend to favour employer lawyers who work at mega-firms. This is because to win these awards or rankings, you generally need to be nominated by the most people. The bigger the firm the better odds – if you have a massive firm of hundreds of lawyers, and you are a partner, there’s little doubt the marketing committee of that lawyer’s firm will be using all the other firm lawyers to nominate that lawyer. Finally, look to see how many lawyers have won the award or “ranking”. It really diminishes the award or “ranking” if pretty much every partner at all the big firms (i.e. 100’s or even 1000’s) has the same award or ranking each and every year (indicating the trivialness of the award). Having said all that, there are reputable awards and “rankings”, but I leave it to you the reader to decipher which (Hint: Peer review rankings if the lawyer’s law firm cannot vote for them, and lifetime achievement awards from bar associations or regulators like the Law Society).
Lastly, don’t fall for the trap of star ratings on Google or other websites. Anybody can open a new burner Gmail account to post a five-star review, meaning there are probably lots of fake reviews. Not to mention, I have heard some law firms give a discount on the final bill in exchange for the client agreeing that the law firm marketing department can open a burner Gmail account in their name to write a five-star review on their behalf. Look to see if all the reviews have the same structure, grammar, tone and spelling. At the same time, be cautious of one-star reviews. Competitors can and have sabotaged other firms with one-star reviews. Moreover, know that lawyers work on the edge and take risks for their clients. In that regard, some passionate but misguided clients will give a one-star rating for the lawyer losing a tough case even though the lawyer worked as hard as possible and did the best any lawyer could. Furthermore, some one-star reviews are just bizarre. We once had a one-star review because we couldn’t assist and never met the individual as he was in a union. In summary, to cut through the weeds, look to well written, plausible reviews explaining specifically why they were happy or upset. Do not concern yourself if the reviews are anonymous. After all, nobody wants a permanent record on Google indicating they sued their last employer.
Find the “best” employment lawyer “near me”
The best advice to find the top employment lawyer near you is to use Google to find a few different employment law firms in your area to interview. Most lawyers will spend a few minutes for free discussing their practice (not giving free legal advice) over the phone or email. Ask them questions like the ones I just mentioned above. After that, pick the lawyer you feel most comfortable with.
If you like, call our firm, Dutton Employment Law. We would be happy to chat.