You are having problems at work. Out of the blue, your new manager has put you on a performance improvement plan, or you just found out you are being paid $20,000 less than the male manager who had the job before you. You google employment lawyer and come up with hits from all over the country. Should you dial that 1-800 number, or look for someone local? Most of the time, you are better off with a top-notch lawyer from your own area. Here are three reasons why:
1. State laws vary.
State legislatures have passed their own laws protecting workers, including anti-discrimination laws, whistleblower protections, minimum wage and family leave requirements, and the list goes on. Even if that high-priced lawyer with the fancy website who practices on the East Coast says he knows all the laws in all the states, it is hard to keep them all straight and up to date. For example, the Minnesota Human Rights Act protects contractors from discrimination, while the federal law and many other state laws do not. Similarly, Minnesota’s Whistleblower Act protects employees who have mixed motives when they complain to their employers about alleged illegal activity, while other states’ laws do not. And local lawyers don’t just know the law from reading it, sometimes they actually work with the legislature to get improvements to the law passed.
2. Local Lawyers are known by other local lawyers, agencies and judges.
Employment lawyers who practice in the same city and state tend to know one another and deal with each other often. A firm like Schaefer Halleen has a stellar reputation among local lawyers, mediators, agency investigators and judges. The firm’s credibility will rub off on your claim and you are more likely to be taken seriously. While the large firm with offices all over the country may sound intimidating, a proven track record by a local attorney carries real clout.
3. It’s nice to meet in person.
These days so much is done by email. It is possible to work with a lawyer and never actually hear her voice, much less put a face to the name. We encourage clients to come into the office, bring their documents, sit down with a cup of coffee, and talk face to face. Employment conflicts are stressful. You need to trust the person navigating you through the difficult time. You should feel they are absolutely in your corner. That’s hard to do with an email or even a disembodied voice. A local lawyer can give you personal attention, and can be there if problems persist.
People focus more and more on using services that originates in their neighborhood or state because of trust. That’s true for lawyers too. So if you need a lawyer, “think Local.”
A serious employment problem can disrupt your life. Make it easier on yourself by choosing a local lawyer who is knowledgeable about local law, has a good reputation with lawyers and judges in the area, and who can meet with you face to face.
Jean Boler is an experienced Minneapolis lawyer who has worked tirelessly for equity and fairness both as counsel for individuals and for organizations. As a plaintiffs’ employment lawyer, Ms. Boler has used class action litigation to expose discriminatory patterns in workplaces. As counsel to the City of Seattle, Ms. Boler was at the forefront of helping a willing City government embrace systemic change in its police department. Ms. Boler has a unique ability to turn conflict into an avenue for improvement, whether through advice, negotiation or litigation. Ms. Boler works in all areas of employment law as well as in the area of police accountability. She is a trained mediator.