Should You Get a Local Attorney?

Local Article PhotoIf you’re looking for an attorney to help with a legal dispute, you may have asked yourself: “Should I get an attorney located near me?” Or you may have assumed that you should get a local attorney, without even considering it an option to retain an attorney outside your city or state. While it’s good to ask questions, and good to review whether or not a local attorney is the best option, you should not assume a local attorney is the only option.

In actuality, lawyers (including employee rights attorneys) can and do represent clients in different states, in many circumstances and cases.  Lawyers in the U.S. are generally licensed to handle Federal-law matters all across the U.S. Many employment-law claims are Federal claims, including many important claims relating to job terminations and pay.

I personally handle Federal- law matters in numerous states. I commonly represent clients located in states other than my mine (Wisconsin) and even in other countries.  Those clients retained me because I have experience with legal issues at hand.  For most clients and cases, the quality of legal work– wherever it is performed– is the most important issue.

Of note, nearly all legal work is remote: the vast majority of legal work is done via a computer, phone, and mailed or electronically- transmitted documents.  Even clients who live very close to my office will only occasionally (at most) meet in person with me, with some clients– near and far– choosing not to meet with me at all.  I definitely understand people who are more comfortable meeting in person, and I have meetings on request whenever feasible. But that is because a given client and I decide to meet in person, not because we must do so.

With that said, there are some types of matters where an attorney’s location and/or licensure can be very important to a matter.  For example, some issues are highly focused within a particular state’s law or legal proceedings, in which case it may be important to work with an attorney licensed and/or physically located in that state.  Some of my Federal cases involve secondary state- law issues and I work along with co-counsel attorneys located or licensed in the pertinent states.  However, many cases do not require or need this type of work-sharing. Also, some state courts and state forums readily accept out-of-state attorneys to work within those forums.

Any employee rights attorney who you contact, wherever he or she is located, should be able to tell you whether he or she can assist with your matter or not.  The key is to contact the attorney you most want to contact (wherever he or she is located), and to ask all the questions you want answered, including whether local counsel is necessary for your particular issues.  If you feel a particular attorney can help you with your specific issues, don’t assume location is a barrier, at least for your first call.

In my view, there are three better questions than “Should I get a local attorney?”  Those are:

(1) Does a particular lawyer you’ve learned about appear to be able to help you with your concerns?

(2) If you’ve called that lawyer, has the lawyer explained to your satisfaction whether his or her location could present any limitations to representing you?

(3) If the lawyer explained how and why he or she could help you, do the potential benefits of representation outweigh any potential limitations?

Asking these questions should give you the information you need to choose an attorney and weigh the pros and cons (if any) of a non-local attorney representing you.

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