How Employment Lawyers Evaluate Potential Clients and Their Cases

When you consult a lawyer about your employment lawsuit, two things will go on:

  1. You will evaluate the lawyer to decide whether this is the person that you want to represent you.
  2. The lawyer will evaluate you and your case to decide whether he or she wants to represent you.

Here is how the lawyer will evaluate you and your case.

Evaluating you, the potential client in an employment case

1. Lawyer’s evaluation of the client: the most important factor

Deciding whether or not to accept a case can be a very difficult and delicate task for a plaintiff’s employment attorney.

In most cases, the client is the single most important factor in determining which side will win in a wrongful discharge or employment discrimination case.

Therefore, the most important part of the lawyer’s evaluation of whether or not to take a case is what the lawyer thinks of you.

2. Lawyer’s evaluation of the client: the human factor

In employment cases, the plaintiff will testify in front of the jury, and will usually be on the witness stand for at least one day and sometimes two or three days, under the most stressful and grueling circumstances.

Throughout that time, the jurors’ eyes will be glued on the plaintiff. During that time, any bizarre, unattractive or unpleasant personality traits will inevitably be revealed.

An unpleasant plaintiff cannot be hidden from the jury. Jurors are very astute and they will spot even unconscious idiosyncrasies. If they do not like or do not trust you then the case will suffer.

The lawyer evaluating whether or not to take an employment case must look for how appealing you are. If the lawyer does not like you, then the lawyer will think that there may be reason for the employer’s actions, and the jury may also not like you.

3. Lawyer’s evaluation of the client: danger signals and red flags

Much of the employment lawyer’s evaluation of a potential client is a matter of looking for pleasant or unpleasant personality traits, and determining whether the potential client is appealing to the lawyer (and hopefully will be appealing to the jury).

This is primarily a subjective process. However, there are some statements that are clear danger signals for a plaintiff’s employment attorney. If you make the following types of statements the lawyer will be particularly suspicious and skeptical:

  • “I’ve seen several other lawyers, but no one wants to take the case because the other attorneys are scared to fight the big company.”
  • “The company will not fight this case; it always settles these types of cases. As soon as upper management learns what happened to me, the case will settle to avoid the publicity.”
  • “I did nothing wrong. Everybody does the same thing and no one else got fired.”
  • “My performance reviews do not accurately reflect my job performance because my supervisor did not like me and was out to get me.”
  • “I know my coworkers will support me, but they are scared they will lose their jobs; they will tell the truth under oath.”
  • “I know I have a great case that is worth millions of dollars.”
  • “Why should I have to pay you for anything? My case is so good that you should pay all the costs and I should pay nothing.”

4. Lawyer’s evaluation of the client: an evaluation checklist

The process of evaluating a potential employment client requires a significant degree of intuition and experience in the lawyer.

The lawyer’s goal is to decide whether this is:

  • A good client with a good case.
  • A good client with a poor case.
  • A bad client with a bad case.

Ultimately, the lawyer is deciding whether or not he or she wants to work with you. If the lawyer, who is trying to help you, feels like you would be hard to work with, then the lawyer may think that there may be a good reason that you lost your job. The most commonly repeated defense mantra in employment cases is that “the plaintiff was not a team player.” If the lawyer feels that you do not work well with others then the lawyer may decide to not take your case.

To make this decision, the employment lawyer will work through a mental checklist of questions like this:

  • Will this potential client sell to the jury?
  • Do I like him/her?
  • Can I work with him/her?
  • Am I going to be fighting with my client, in addition to fighting the defense?
  • Is he/she going to be “junior counsel,” second-guessing every legal move I make during the course of the representation?
  • Does he/she look me in the eye?
  • Does his/her story demonstrate thoughtfulness or deceit?
  • Does his/her version of what happened pass the smell test or does it seem unreasonable?
  • Is he/she listening to me and asking appropriate questions, or does it appear that he/she feels that he/she knows it all and does not have to listen?
  • Does A lead to B, or is something obviously missing in the story?
  • Is this someone I want to work with for the next 2-3 years?
  • Does he/she have a good work record (or has he/she had many jobs or prior disciplinary actions)?
  • Does he/she treat my office staff with courtesy and respect?