There Is No Current State Bar Certification of California Employment Law Attorneys.

The California Employment Law Attorney is a creature unto himself or herself, but there is no California State Bar Certification CA State Bar Certification of specialty in Employment law.  The consumer searching for an employment law attorney will likely enter those words in Google, and see a bewildering listing of attorneys who seek employment law cases, but provide little information that differentiates one from another.  The employment law attorney, once the dismissed guest kept outside the party for the dominant litigation players, now has center seat?  How did this happen?  The answer is twofold:  the emergence of the class action and the development of the common law theory of wrongful termination in violation of “public policy,” and more specifically, California case law that relaxed the standards of proof in whistleblower retaliation cases.  For example, a whistleblower need only prove a reasonable belief that an employer is violating a law, and the whistleblowing can be as simple as passive resistance to following an illegal directive.

The Market for California Employment Law Attorneys Has Exploded

When I began the practice of employment law in 1993 as one of the few in Orange County devoting all his time to that niche practice alone, the common response of my colleagues was, “Is there any money in that after Foley?”  The Foley case was a California Supreme Court decision of decades ago that removed the remedy of tort damages for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in wrongful termination cases.  Today, on the other hand, the typical response is, “Yeah, that’s a hot area of law.”

Who hasn’t heard of the mega-settlements in wage and hour class action cases in California?  Yet, the consensus now is that the boom is over, as the low hanging litigation fruit for Plaintiffs attorneys finished.  That may seem like a callous assessment, but the social benefit is exactly what we all should seek:  employer compliance with laws protecting the rights of workers to fair pay and decent working conditions.

Ten Questions That Will Assist The California Consumer Select An Employment Law Attorney

The result however has had a degree of negative effect for the consumer.  How does the buyer of legal services differentiate the true California Employment Lawyer from the quick-entry competitors who hope to share in the spoils of war?  Here are five basic guidelines for picking your next California Employment Law Attorney:

  1. Does the Employment Law Attorney Listen from the Heart?
  2. Does the Employment Law Attorney Work Solo or as a Team?
  3. Does the Employment Law Attorney Devote his full time to Employment Law only?
  4. Is the Attorney a Member of the California Employment Lawyers Association [CELA]?
  5. Is the Attorney a Member of the Labor & Employment Law Section of his or her County Bar Association?
  6. Has the Employment Law Attorney Held Positions of Leadership in His Professional Organization, especially those related to Employment Law.
  7. Does the Employment Law Attorney Have Office Systems in Place to Assure Cases Are Monitored, Projects are Managed, and Tasks are Completed?
  8. What is the Employment Law Attorney’s Trial and Arbitration Experience?
  9. What has the Employment Law Attorney Done Recently to Enhance His Litigation Skills?
  10. Is the Employment Law Attorney Passionate about Truth and Justice?

Four General Criteria for Selecting A Good Attorney

This last point is one a reader may assess as too idealistic, but good lawyers are virtuous people who hold high values for themselves and the profession.  After 38 years of practice [I was admitted to the State Bar in 1977], I attended the “swearing in” ceremony of my law clerk in December 2015.  The oath was administered by two highly respected jurists, one sitting on the Orange County Superior Court, and one sitting as a federal Bankruptcy judge.  Their comments to the assembled candidates for enrollment as new attorneys presented a time for me to look back.  Had I practiced law these nearly four decades as she now urged these new admittees?  Here are the the four values presented by the State Court judge:

  1. Reputation
  2. Civility
  3. Preparation
  4. ProBono

In choosing the right Employment Law Attorney for your case, you can use these same bench marks.  First, reputation can be obtained best by asking for references from two sources:  a former client and a former or current adversary (i.e., defense counsel).

Civility is simply a reflection of breeding and character, as well as a right understanding of how good relations work, even in the contest of issues called litigation.  Good lawyers are both highly effective and civil.  Civil does not mean weak.  Litigation is emotional and contentious, but it does not have to be insulting, hostile, or degrading.  In fact, if the public is to respect lawyers in the conduct of their business, civility is a requirement. The double entendre of “civil litigation” should not be lost.

Preparation is the great equalizer.  Whatever weaknesses in counsel or the case, those can be often offset by superior preparation.  At the most basic, it means giving the time and energy, and yes, the imagination, needed to make the best presentation of the case possible.

Finally, pro bono, or “for the good” means giving back to the society that has entrusted an attorney with the privilege of pursuing his or her profession.  Even a solo practitioner can occasionally help an employee-client who is without resources to pay all the fees and costs of litigation where the issues impact fundamental right and wrong, and cry out for justice.

The “X” Factor for Choosing the Best California Employment Law Attorney

Employment Law presents situations of raw hurt and confusing choices for employees.  The employment law attorney should be able to balance the ability to make hard nosed case decisions with the ability to relax and enter the emotional story of the client’s experience.

Which perhaps brings us to the most important selection criteria for choice of an employment law attorney:  can he or she live inside your world as a client, to feel what you felt, and to express the truth of what your experienced?  In simple terms, is he or she able to empathize?  Trials are not cold surgical experiences but highly charged dramas where people are asked to decide between right and wrong.  Your attorney at some point in the case assimilation should be able to use the pronoun “I” as if it were you who were speaking, and the words should sound like words you would use, delivered with the emotion you would feel were it you speaking before the court or jury.

Conclusion

The best California Employment Law Attorney will be a combination of qualities:  strong in knowledge of employment law because continuing his or her legal education; strong in character, because bringing a work-ethic that delivers on time; and strong in the ability to listen and feel deeply, coupled with the ability to tell your story as if living inside your skin.  That’s a lot to ask of anyone, and all will fall short in some aspects, but this article provides you with some areas of inquiry should you need to decide which California Employment Law Attorney is right for you.

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