Top 10 Tips when consulting an employment lawyer
If you have arranged to meet with an employment lawyer for a consultation in person or on the phone, this quick guide will help you prepare in advance to get the most out of your time with the employment lawyer.
Here is the top 10 things to do before you meet an employment lawyer for the first time:
- Write down and save a short summary of events before the consultation. Not only will this jolt your memory at the consultation with the employment lawyer, but it will allow you to remember important details much later. If your matter goes to trial, it could take a year or longer, and contemporaneous notes will help if preparing affidavit evidence or oral testimony for the trial. You may even rely on these notes as documentary evidence if it comes down to a creditability fight.
- Add a timeline if your matter is fact-heavy. For example, if you are alleging unpaid overtime or unpaid bonuses or harassment etc., try and diarize the relevant dates. This information will get stale fast.
- Send your employment lawyer all the relevant documents in advance over email. This way your lawyer can prepare before she meets with you. Furthermore, you will save time and money if the employment lawyer doesn’t have to analyze, for example, a termination clause in your contract during a long portion of a paid consultation with you present. Or you may only have 30 minutes for a free consultation, so don’t waste it (although most lawyers will usually extend as much time as necessary). Thus, email your lawyer these documents a day or so before the consult:
- employment contract;
- job offer;
- any promotion letters or fresh contracts;
- discipline warnings (if applicable – i.e. just cause issues);
- termination letter (if applicable);
- any document you have even the slightest hunch could be relevant; and
- a copy of any offer or release presented by the employer. Make sure you don’t sign anything yet, otherwise the lawyer can’t help.
- If it is a severance case, consider what you would be willing to accept or fight for in your case. Think of a cash number you think is fair to you, and consider if you would be willing to wait a year or longer to receive this amount. The lawyer will tell you what is reasonable in your case, so be prepared for your expectations to perhaps fluctuate. However, it’s always best for the client to have a firm idea of what they want out of the lawyer and to try to stick to that in the long run so long as the lawyer says it’s reasonable.
- Be prepared to spend money on a retainer immediately. Some employment lawyers will charge no retainer on certain matters, but in most cases, the lawyer will charge a small retainer of around $500 to $5000. This amount is typically negotiable. However, there is no obligation to retain the firm and pay a retainer with your first consultation lawyer.
- If this is a fact-heavy matter like, for example, just cause or human rights, prepare a list of witnesses who have knowledge of the case who could speak to your matter down the road. Try and get their email address in case the lawyer needs to summon them later on. The witnesses will not be contacted until a while after the employment law consultation.
- Bring a copy of your drivers licence or passport. A lawyer must confirm your identity. It is required by law. The lawyer will take a photocopy or your ID and your client intake information sheet to store for five years so that there are never any conflicts down the road even if you do not retain the lawyer. If you are a business, bring your articles of incorporation. This is required by law just like an ID for an individual client as above.
- Bring an open mind. Sometimes the lawyer will tell you something you don’t want to hear. It is for the best though. If the lawyer thinks you have a losing case, it is better to hear now rather than from a judge years later after you have incurred significant expenses. Also, consider getting a second opinion from another law firm if you really don’t agree with the lawyer’s opinion.
- Bring a family member or friend. Lots of clients bring their loved ones or trusted friends to a consultation. It can help soften the meeting and add perspective.
- Be prepared to take notes. The employment lawyer will be advising you of your options, so it’s a good idea to write them down to save for later when you get home. After you get home, take as much time as you need to consider if and how you want to move forward with the employment lawyer.
- BONUS TIP: wear what’s comfortable. Don’t worry about putting on a suit. Consider this meeting easy-going and even relaxing. We are providing professional guidance if we are meeting with you even if we haven’t been retained yet. Some clients say it’s nice to get everything off your chest and bounce your thoughts off a professional. At the very least you will get answers.
Jeff is a lawyer in Toronto who works for a technology startup. Jeff is a frequent lecturer on employment law and is the author of an employment law textbook and various trade journal articles. Jeff is interested in Canadian business, technology and law, and this blog is his platform to share his views and tips in those areas.