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.