Thinking of reaching out to an employment attorney? It is likely that the attorney, or someone in the attorney’s office, will want to conduct an intake with you to learn about your situation. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts that you may find helpful.
1. DO tell them why you called. Are you looking for someone to file a lawsuit for you right away? Just curious if you might have a legal claim? Would you like to talk with someone about your legal options? Are you seeking urgent advice in advance of a performance review or severance deadline? People call employment lawyers for different reasons. It is helpful for me to know why you called, so I know best how to help you.
2. DON’T withhold information. As lawyers, we need to know the whole story in order to best assess your situation and possible claims. You should not withhold information—even things that you think might harm your case or make you look bad. Keep in mind that when you are calling a lawyer to seek legal advice, your conversations are privileged and confidential, so you can tell your lawyer things that you do not want shared with others. We will not judge you—we’re trying to help!
3. DO be as specific as possible. People often talk with me about their work frustrations in terms of how events made them feel and how they reacted to them. I think that is a very normal approach. But if you can remember specifically what people said and specifically when they said it, it is a good idea to share that, too.
4. DON’T get frustrated if you do not have “evidence.” I often have potential clients minimize parts of their story because they cannot “prove” what actually happened or because people did not do things “in writing.” Keep in mind that your verbal testimony is also evidence, even if things are not in writing. It is better to tell the whole story from your perspective first, and then talk with your lawyer about what you may be able to prove.
5. DO think about who else knows about your situation. It can be helpful to know if other people witnessed your experiences, and if you talked with others about it. If you think other people may have had similar experiences, it is helpful to know that too.
6. DO answer all the questions. It may be that in the intake you are asked questions that you think should not matter, such as details regarding your compensation, your 401k plan, or whether you have declared bankruptcy. Your lawyers are gathering lots of information at this stage, and this will help them best assess your possible employment case and damages
7. DO tell them what you would like to happen. Know you want to stay in your job for at least another six months? Know you want to leave as soon as possible? Think you might not ever want to file anything public? It is fine if you don’t know the answers to these questions, but if you do, be sure to share them with your lawyer.