Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr
Are you an employee in an employment dispute, and considering whether to “drop the L-bomb,” and tell your employer you’re retaining an attorney?
Occasionally, an employee/prospective client who consults with me will tell me that he already dropped the L-bomb, and already told his employer he would be retaining a lawyer.
Often, this news was told to the employer in a huff, e.g. “If you insist on denying my medical leave, Ms. Manager, well then you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” Every once in awhile, an employee who I’ve never even met or communicated with will send an email to the manager he or she’s having a dispute with, and will copy my email address (found on the internet) on the email to the manager. Thus this gives the impression I have been retained to represent someone I’d never been in contact with. (For anyone considering using a lawyer/email address to do this, please DON’T– it’s not a good idea for many reasons).
Making L-bomb threats may feel good when one is frustrated. However, what feels good to say or do “in the moment” of an angry employment dispute can often result in bad, long-term consequences.
In most situations, it will NOT help an employee to drop the L-bomb, and tell your employer that you’re retaining a lawyer.
In many situations, the employee’s mere mention of the L-word makes the employer even more upset, makes the employer take more adverse actions, and makes the situation worse. Most employers are not intimidated by L-threats, because often the threats aren’t carried out. It may be the employer’s experience that they’ve heard many L-bombs dropped, but usually a lawyer was not hired, there was no lawsuit, etc. Or perhaps your employer anticipates you will likely get a lawyer, but the employer has planned for the worst-case L-scenarios and risks, and the employer isn’t worried about your particular legal issues. And sometimes, an employee’s L-bomb threat appears to work, and the employer seems to back off, but only later the employee learns the L-threat just made the employer take more carefully-planned actions, without giving the employee (and her attorney) advance warnings anymore.
In sum, the L-bomb usually turns out to be less intimidating to the employer, and less effective in improving the employee’s situation, than the employee expects.
With all that said, there are certain occasions where the news of hiring a lawyer, when well-delivered, CAN make an abrupt and positive impact on an employee’s matter. And if you’re hiring an attorney long-term, such as for litigation work, the employer must and will be told you have a lawyer at some point, in fairness to the employer. But before you rush to deliver that news yourself, especially if you’re in a huff, you should stop to reflect. Since you’re getting a lawyer involved, then it only makes sense you talk to that lawyer about your plans (including any planned announcement you’ve retained a lawyer) before you put those plans in action.
It’s best that the lawyer and employee/client discuss and plan in advance the announcement that the lawyer was hired. Then that news can be delivered to the employer under carefully-considered timing and circumstances.