If you've been fired from your job under unfair circumstances, you may have questions about your rights and your ex-employer’s responsibilities under the law. You will need to consult with an employment lawyer to assess whether your employer fired you legally or whether you have a wrongful termination case.
If you have been lucky enough not to need a lawyer before in your life, you may be at a loss as to how to begin looking for one. This article will give you some guidance on how to find a lawyer. For information about how a lawyer assesses a termination, see Will a Lawyer Take Your Wrongful Termination Case if You Were Fired for Cause? and Will a Lawyer Take Your Wrongful Termination Case if You Worked At Will?
Resources Listing Attorneys
There are several attorney referral resources available in virtually every state and county in this country. Here are some of them.
State Bar Associations
Every state bar association lists the attorneys in practice in the state. And, state bar association listings also indicate whether each listed attorney is an active member of the bar (in other words, not retired or otherwise not practicing) and in “good standing” (meaning that the attorney is not subject to discipline or restrictions on practice due to misconduct). Some state bar associations also list specialists, attorneys whom the bar association has tested and certified as having special expertise in a particular area of law. Check the bar association in your state for employment law specialists or other lists of employment lawyers in your area.
County Bar Associations
Many county bar associations administer their own lawyer referral services. For example, in California, every county bar association operates a lawyer referral service as a nonprofit public service to the community. Each county bar association lists attorneys by specialty and screens the attorneys it lists for experience in the area of law under which they are listed. In California and some other states, attorneys listed with the county bar association lawyer referral services agree to charge clients a reduced fee ($30 to $40) for an initial half-hour consultation. Check with the bar association in your county to find out if it runs a lawyer referral service.
Civil Rights and Public Interest Organizations
If you believe that you may have been discriminated against based on a protected status (such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or membership in another protected group), certain organizations may be able to help you retain legal representation. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains a list of attorneys who practice employment discrimination law in each district office of the agency. Some civil rights groups, such as La Raza, the NAACP, the Council on Islamic-American Relations, and Disability Rights Advocates, among others, may also assist individuals in finding lawyers.
Private Referral Agencies
There are many private referral services in the country, including Nolo’s lawyer directory. Nolo’s lawyer directory, like most private referral services, lists attorneys in the geographic locations and by the areas of law in which they practice.
Word of Mouth
As with hiring a dentist, doctor, contractor, or even car mechanic, we rely on referrals from family, friends, and coworkers who may have used such services (or have a professional in the family). Ask your contacts if they can refer you to an employment lawyer. Be sure to ask whether they had personal experience with the lawyer and how satisfied they were with the lawyer's service.
Many attorneys have websites listing major cases, books and articles they’ve authored, and membership in professional associations. Some attorneys write blogs or Twitter feeds about employment law. Check these sites to find an attorney in your area with relevant experience.
Check the Attorney’s Standing
Once you get some attorney names, check them out on the state bar association website in your state to make sure they are active bar members in good standing with no history of discipline. And, feel free to ask the attorney(s) for client references who are willing to talk to you about their experiences working with the attorney.