At InformedFed, our primary objective is providing expert consultation to employees affected by proposed or final adverse personnel actions or otherwise engaging administrative processes such as grievance procedures, Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), arbitration, Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), and others. Therefore, many prospective clients are surprised when, after contacting us concerning “firing” their attorney, we advise them to hold fast.
Attorney costs vary widely. However, generally speaking from our direct experience, expected hourly rates are $250 to $375 an hour with a $10,000 (we have seen as high as $15,000) up front retainer not unusual. That means, when a prospective client contacts us regarding dropping their attorney, they have already invested a significant amount of money. It would not have been unusual for much of that up-front retainer to have been exhausted by the time we are contacted. That indicates the attorney is extremely familiar with the case. Dropping an attorney at this point, would be foolish in our professional opinion.
Often, prospective clients inform us the primary reason for dissatisfaction with their attorney is disagreement (or confusion) over tactics and strategy. However, when you pay this amount of money for legal representation, hopefully you conducted sufficient research upfront. From that point forward, you must take a leap of faith and trust the attorney and furthermore, trust that the attorney knows more than you do concerning your representation; after all, that is why you hired him or her. Theretofore, at this point, it would be far better to work out any issues you have and maintain your course.
About Union Representatives
Issues with union representatives are far different for one simple reason: money. Union representatives provide representation without fee. However, many times, you really get what you pay for (with exceptions of course). If you are dealing with a proposed adverse action, particularly a removal, it would significantly benefit you to ensure you have adequate representation. We have seen many ill equipped and poorly trained union representatives (stewards), with the best of intentions, directly cause the loss of employment of union members in circumstances where employment could have been saved through any number of means. In this regard, we recommend you should ask the following questions of union representatives who are assisting in your representation:
- Does your representative have access to Cyberfeds?
- What is their experience and training? How many cases have they handled?
- Does your representative have access to union attorneys for advice and representation at MSPB or arbitration appeals?
- Is your representative familiar with crafting last chance or abeyance agreements?
- Can your representative prepare technical responses to the proposed action and for third-party appeal? (ELR Specialists are much more friendly toward representatives who are able to technically write in a coherent manner).
- Does your representative have experience in discovery and motions practice before the MSPB or EEOC?
- Is your willing to pay associated fees with retaining a consultant?
These are just a few inquiries to establish the technical capacity of your local union in representing you in a serious matter. These questions should be asked immediately upon assignment of a union representative. Asking these questions after responding to a proposed action would be a waste of time.