Choosing an attorney to represent you is probably the single most important decision you will make in this process. It is also a decision that can seem overwhelming at first, in light of all of the options out there. How do you figure out which attorney will be best for you? What factors should you consider? As we see it, there are three primary factors to consider in picking a good whistleblower attorney.
Before we get to those factors though, it is important to realize that the “best” lawyer for you is not necessarily the one who immediately agrees that you have a great case or quickly rushes to get you to sign a retainer without some preliminary work to ascertain the merits of your case. In other words, don’t confuse enthusiasm with competence. Effective lawyers ask tough questions, and treat each new case with a healthy dose of skepticism. Why? Government prosecutors and federal agents who investigate your case will not accept your version of events at face value. They will attempt to understand how the company will respond to your allegations and will want to probe its potential defenses. Hopefully, the government will interview other witnesses and subpoena documents to verify your story. As a result, anything short of a thorough and complete review of your case by your own attorney at the outset is a disservice to you and your cause.
Here are the top three considerations when picking a lawyer for your whistleblower case:
This one may seem obvious, but experience dealing with whistleblowers it is a critically important factor. There are some very specific laws out there that apply to and protect whistleblowers, and most lawyers have little—if any—experience dealing with them. You should choose an attorney who knows and understands these laws and who can give you the best possible legal advice about your particular facts and circumstances.
If you decide to go forward and blow the whistle, it is very likely that a government investigation will result. Therefore, it is important that you pick an attorney who understands the way those investigations work, who knows the individual investigators and government attorneys who will be involved, and who can help guide you through this process. Lawyers who previously worked at the Department of Justice can often be quite helpful on this point.
Blowing the whistle on fraud against the government is, first and foremost, about protecting the public. But your attorney should also know how to protect you. Becoming a whistleblower always has its risks, and that is particularly true if you are blowing the whistle on a current employer. Your attorney should understand and be able to advise you on those risks, to help you avoid retaliation whenever possible, and to protect your legal rights in the event your employer does retaliate against you.
While these three factors are certainly not the only ones that matter, they are the most important issues that you should consider as you look for a whistleblower attorney to represent you.
To learn more about our Whistleblower & Qui Tam practice, click here. This is the third in our six-part series on the ins and outs of exposing fraud against the government. Be on the lookout for next week’s edition discussing what your attorney should do to help you blow the whistle.