Friday, 2 May 2014

Should I hire a Employment Lawyer to Review my Severance Package

Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer to Review your Severance Package?

By Darryl A. Aarbo

We get a lot of calls from people who have been terminated from their employment wondering if they should hire a lawyer to review their severance package. A severance package can be a very important legal arrangement with lasting consequences for a person’s career and financial well-being.

Assessing a severance package requires a proper intake interview to determine all of the relevant variables and factors that should go into a severance package. I have yet to see anything on the Internet that can provide this advice in a meaningful way to a person due to the number of variables. This does not mean that the lawyer has to undertake a detailed analysis of case law in every circumstance. Most experienced employment law lawyers can provide an opinion relatively quickly after a proper intake interview. In other words, the lawyer can usually render an initial verbal opinion at the end of an initial consultation. It is normally a preliminary opinion without the aid of legal research, but a range can be provided with some accuracy if you get an experienced employment law lawyer.

The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of our age, but it does give people the false sense of security that they can become an expert in any field instantly by reading a couple of articles on the Internet on a particular topic. Unless and until we get to the point where information can be downloaded instantly into the human brain like in the movie The Matrix then there will be value added to hiring professionals to obtain advice in medicine, accounting, law and just about any  other discipline.

Because of the nuances in the law and the interconnected legal relationship between an employee and employer it is impossible to advise a client as to whether it is appropriate to hire a lawyer to further negotiate a severance package until the intake interview is completed. Sometimes the package on offer is reasonable.  Sometimes it is most appropriate for the employee him or herself to return to the employer to ask for some additional monies or components to the severance package.  Sometimes it is faster and most appropriate for the lawyer to counter offer.

If a lawyer is hired to negotiate a severance package then there is no guarantee that that lawyer can improve the offer.  Nevertheless, hiring a lawyer does send a message to the employer that the employee is serious about his or her concerns and is taking a professional approach to dealing with the concerns. Termination can be a difficult process for both the employee and the person terminating. In smaller or midsize companies the person doing the terminating and negotiating on behalf of the employer may have worked with that person in a close capacity for many years.  Hiring a lawyer by the employee often results in the employer hiring a lawyer to represent its interests.  Hiring lawyers to negotiate the package allows the parties to remove any distractions and focus on the issues in an efficient and meaningful way.

Further, if a person has been terminated from a large corporation with a sophisticated human resources department and there is no personal connection between the involved parties then that employer often appreciates the professionalism of dealing with a lawyer, even if they do not retain its own lawyer during the negotiation phase.

Hiring a lawyer allows the parties to focus in on the real and material issues in dispute between the parties in an efficient manner without dealing with any irrelevant issues that may unnecessarily complicate the process.  I can tell you from years of experience that no employer wants to pay more than it has to on the termination of an employee. Further, unless there is an existing and valid contract that deals with the termination then most employers go in low with any offers.  Without a lawyer most employees accept the first offer and therefore the employer saves money on the package itself and any legal costs that may be incurred. This does not mean that they put their best offer forward first. In my experienced most employers leave some room for negotiation.

Finally, sometimes the employers are simply not sophisticated in the area of employment law. They make mistakes and they sometimes dig in their heels with offers that are inappropriate or even illegal as they may violate employment standards legislation. Sometimes these employers feel that they know better and make a horrible offer and dig in their heels. The best advantage to having a lawyer in this case is that employer will usually go get their own lawyer and that lawyer will explain to the employer why their offer cannot be maintained law and a more reasonable offer is forthcoming.  The size of the company does not determine this issue.

Finally, one aspect that people almost always forget to negotiate on their own is the own reference.  A experienced lawyers knows what and when to negotiate a reference.

For more information, please contact the law office of Courtney Aarbo Fuldauer LLP, Barristers & Solicitors at:

Darryl A. Aarbo, Barrister & Solicitor
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*The information contained in this blog is not legal advice. It should not be construed as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you require legal assistance, please contact a lawyer*

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