The Care and Feeding Of Counsel

My Las Vegas partner, Mark Ricciardi, recently posted the Fourth Part of his Blog on “Ten Reasons to Find a New Labor Employment Attorney.” I respect Mark’s opinions because he maintains some of our most enthusiastic clients.

Over the next few days, I will share 20 suggestions from classes I have presented on how to manage legal matters and effectively work with one’s counsel. Consider these points in conjunction with Mark’s fine article.  Other attorneys may have different suggestions.

1.  Tell your counsel your expectations on billing, communications, updates, staffing, and anything else that helps you better manage your legal matters. Experienced counsel appreciate you telling them upfront about anything that makes your job easier.

2.  Expect your attorneys to learn your business and to not simply take the approach of the litigator who focuses only on the case at hand. Your counsel should learn your industry and “vocabulary,” how your company works, and “all” of your goals.

3.  “Good” labor lawyers  consider other issues related to your question or claim, such as the effects on operations, morale and culture; wage-hour or discrimination exposure; safety processes; government contractor considerations; and protecting your reputation and “brand.”

4.  Most management labor attorneys claim to offer “practical solutions,” but many do not do so. When you interview counsel, ask them about their business experience and how they have assisted clients to reach practical business goals.  Can they communicate with a construction site superintendent as well as with a CFO?

5.  Pick lawyers who know when not to act like a lawyer. Showing up at an OSHA inspection in a power suit and formally “objecting” to questions is the wrong way to “manage” OSHA inspection and shows that one is a neophyte. Administrative Law Judges may laugh at attorneys who cannot be flexible with procedures and with hearings in general.

6.  Your attorney should know how to manage government investigations by “Finesse,” and with courtesy and professionalism. Being a jerk is not the same thing as maintaining control or practicing tough advocacy.

7.  Conversely, the attorney must know when to bring down the hammer, how to create respect in an adversary, and how to bring pressure from unexpected directions.

8.  Most labor and employment law systems are either Federal or are based on Federal models. A local lawyer familiar with “home town cooking” is less important than counsel who works regularly with OSHA, the NLRB, U.S. DOL and other State and Federal entities.

9.  Relationships matter.  My “rolodex” may be my most important asset. A client will not obtain preferential treatment from the government because of an attorney’s professional relationships, but it is far easier to handle cases with civil servants who have heard of you and trust your word.

10.  Always try to approach the government with “clean hands,” especially in environmental and safety matters. As an example, we try to position cases with OSHA where the employer has already demonstrated commitment to its workers by abatement actions. Then one can fight hard on the legal issues without harming the company’s reputation.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in acqusition and mergers, combustible dust, concerted protected activity, construction, discipline and discharge, EEOC, employer benefit plans, employer policies, food processing, government contracting, government inspections, harassment, hospitality, litigation, managing legal matters, manufacturing, NLRB, OSHA, plant openings and closures, plastics, retail, social media, union organizing, unions, wage hour, workplace violence and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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