Choosing a lawyer to represent you in a whistleblower case will be one of the most important decisions affecting the outcome of your case.
The internet is a good tool for getting information about lawyers. You should be aware, however, that some websites misrepresent law firms’ experience and success representing whistleblowers. There also are websites that target whistleblowers and look like they are put up by lawyers, when actually they belong to referral services.
Here are some tips to consider when choosing a whistleblower lawyer, whether it’s for a qui tam case or a SEC, CFTC or IRS whistleblower claim:
Make sure the lawyer has had experience and success with the kind of whistleblower case you have (such as success with “qui tam” whistleblower cases or SEC whistleblower claims). Some law firms’ websites claim that the firms have won large cases but fail to mention that the cases were not actually whistleblower cases. Ask for specific examples of the firm’s success.
Some lawyers and law firms have websites designed to make it appear the firm specializes in representing whistleblowers, but their experience is actually in other areas. Whistleblower laws, such as the False Claims Act and Dodd-Frank, are complicated, and a misinterpretation of their provisions could be harmful to your case.
Are the whistleblower cases listed on a law firm’s website ones that the law firm itself actually filed and litigated? Some firms list sample whistleblower cases as if they were their own, when in reality they are not.
Referral companies have websites that make them look as if they are law firms. Those companies take cases then sell them to law firms willing to pay a fee. Make sure you are hiring the person who actually will work on your qui tam lawsuit. Look on the website for the names of the lawyers or the law firm. If there aren’t any specific attorneys listed, that is a strong indication it’s a referral service – not a law firm. Another red flag is the absence of a physical address on the site. If it is a mailbox number or no specific address is listed, then it’s likely to be a referral service.
Lawyers can represent whistleblowers all over the country. Any lawyer who’s considering taking your case should offer to pay your travel costs to meet with him or her. Law firms with offices in Washington, D.C. have some advantages, due to the proximity to the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Justice, the SEC, the CFTC and the IRS.
The chances of winning a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit are much greater if the government joins the case. For whistleblower claims filed with the SEC, CFTC and IRS, the government’s participation is required to pursue a whistleblower case and is entirely up to the relevant agency. Find out what the law firm did in previous whistleblower cases to convince the government to investigate and join the case and what the results were.
Whistleblower cases can be very expensive and require a lot of resources. A law firm should have other attorneys available to help with the case if the attention of multiple lawyers is needed at the same time. In addition, there are many out-of-pocket expenses that a law firm should pay for, such as the costs of hiring consultants to do analyses to bolster the whistleblower’s allegations and in certain cases, litigation expenses.