An employment lawyer specializes in handling disputes that relate to employment and labor laws. They can be hired to represent an individual worker, an employer, an entire company, and even labor unions. A majority of their work involves advising clients about different federal and state employment laws, explaining what rights clients have under them, and ensuring that their clients are in compliance.
Some other duties and tasks that employment lawyers perform include:
- Assisting with filing complaints with the proper government agency, or alternatively, filing claims in court;
- Representing clients in lawsuits or during different alternative dispute resolution methods (e.g., mediation, arbitration, etc.);
- Working on specific cases, such as employment discrimination actions, wage and hour lawsuits, employment class actions, and third party lawsuits;
- Filing a claim or helping on an appeal for workers’ compensation benefits;
- Counseling clients on issues concerning labor laws and labor unions (e.g., collective bargaining actions);
- Drafting, amending, and reviewing employment related contracts or agreements; and
- Overseeing various other legal matters that arise in the workplace.
What Methods Do Employment Lawyers in California Use to Charge for Their Services?
Most lawyers generally charge their clients using one or more of the following methods:
- Flat fees;
- Contingency fees;
- Hourly rates;
- Retainer fees; and/or
- Statutory fees.
More specifically, California attorneys fees for employment cases vary considerably and will typically depend on a number of factors, such as how complex a specific case is and how much experience a particular lawyer has in employment law. However, the three most common ways that California employment lawyers use to charge their clients include:
- Flat fees: Employment lawyers handling straight-forward issues, predictable matters, or tasks that involve less complicated legal work (e.g., filing a complaint on behalf of a client with a state employment agency), will usually charge a flat fee for their services. A flat fee basically means that the lawyer will provide a fixed, total amount upfront.
- However, if a matter becomes more complex or additional work is required, then this number may be adjusted. Be sure to ask about specifics and have a lawyer explain what tasks the fees cover before they start the work.
- Contingency fees: This type of fee schedule means that the lawyer will only be paid if their client prevails on a settlement or judgment. The client will not have to pay any fees, but if they are successful, then the lawyer will take a certain percentage of their award. In California, the typical percentage that a lawyer takes is 30%. Contingency fees are usually used in employment law claims for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
- Hourly rates: Most employment lawyers in California charge by the hour for employment lawsuits. The average hourly rate for an attorney ranges from $350 (for smaller or lesser experienced firms) to $475 and up (for larger or more experienced firms).
What Factors Determine How Much a California Employment Lawyer Charges?
As briefly discussed, there are several factors that can affect how California employment lawyer rates are calculated. These factors may include:
- A lawyer’s skillset;
- The amount of expertise they have in employment law;
- How much time they spend on a case or other matter;
- How complex the legal issues are (both to understand and resolve);
- Whether the attorney has any special training or certifications;
- The location of where legal services are provided; and
- The size and reputation of the law firm that employs them.
The above list specifically addresses what factors go into calculating California employment lawyer fees. However, the client should also keep in mind that if their case goes to court, they will likely be responsible for litigation costs, such as court fees and filing fees.
How Much Time Will My Employment Law Case in California Take?
The average length of time it takes to litigate a California employment law case is typically anywhere from one to two years. If the outcome of the case is appealed, clients should expect to tack on at least another year before it is officially resolved. Although this is the standard length of time, every case is different and may take shorter or longer depending on a number of factors.
For example, the court schedule or how much discovery is required are two major influences on how long a case may take. Also, parties may agree to settle the issues outside of court before the case even gets to trial.
Another factor that can impact how long a case takes is the statute of limitations. For instance, union employees only have six months to file a claim if their employer breached their collective bargaining agreement.
In contrast, an employee suing for employment discrimination or harassment will have up to three years to file an action. This does not include the time required for filing a complaint with the proper state agency, how long it takes the agency to conduct its investigation, or to send a right-to-sue letter to the employee before they can file. Thus, employment discrimination matters can take anywhere from one to three years or longer.
Where Can I Find a California Employment Lawyer to Help Me?
There are many different ways to find the right California employment lawyer to assist you with your matter. The first place to start is by asking friends and family whether they have any recommendations. If they do not know of any or if you do not feel comfortable asking your family and friends, then you should conduct a quick online search for local California employment lawyers.
Another way to go about finding a lawyer is by visiting the website for your local or state California bar association. The website should provide you with contact information for attorneys in the area and possibly separate attorney referral services.
One final option you can use to find a lawyer is by using LegalMatch. LegalMatch is a great resource to use when searching for a lawyer. LegalMatch allows a user to narrow down their search criteria by location and legal specialization, and also provides ample background information about the attorneys who are registered to their database. This can make searching for the right lawyer a faster and more efficient process.