Blowing the whistle is serious business. Your job, reputation, and career may be on the line. Your first priority should be to find a whistleblower lawyer, because not all whistleblower disclosures are lawful or protected. Moreover, many whistleblower laws permit you to obtain a financial reward.
By Joseph Orr
Updated: September 1, 2023
Uncovering wrongdoing within an organization requires courage, conviction, and the right legal protection. For potential whistleblowers, the road to justice can be fraught with challenges that could jeopardize their job, reputation, and even their safety. That’s why having the best whistleblower lawyer by your side isn’t just a luxury—it’s a necessity.
Choosing the Right Whistleblower Attorney
Blowing the whistle on unethical or illegal practices can have significant repercussions. While it’s a brave act, it isn’t without potential pitfalls. This is where the guidance of a seasoned whistleblower attorney comes in. They don’t just offer legal advice; they provide a shield, safeguarding your rights, reputation, and future.
Below are our top considerations when choosing a whistleblower attorney:
1. Expertise in Whistleblower Lawsuits
Your whistleblower lawyer must have specialized experience in whistleblower cases. Just like you wouldn’t consult a dermatologist for a cardiac issue, you shouldn’t hire a general practice lawyer to handle a whistleblower case. The laws and regulations that protect whistleblowers can be complex and vary across industries. An attorney experienced in whistleblower laws will know how to navigate these intricacies.
2. Check Their Track Record
Examine the history of the lawyer or the firm. A track record of successful whistleblower representations indicates they have the skills and knowledge necessary to manage your case effectively. The team at Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto, for instance, has amassed significant experience in the realm of whistleblower law.
3. Seek Recommendations and Testimonials
One of the best ways to find a top-notch whistleblower lawyer is through referrals. Speak with colleagues, friends, and family to see if they can recommend a reputable attorney. Online reviews and testimonials can also offer insights into an attorney’s capabilities, pro bono efforts, and their dedication to their clients.
4. Evaluate their Understanding of Various Whistleblower Laws
Different scenarios call for the invocation of various whistleblower laws, from SEC whistleblower claims to Qui Tam cases. It’s essential that the attorney you choose is not only familiar with these laws but has also successfully represented clients under these statutes.
5. Transparency in Fee Structure
Understanding how your lawyer’s fee structure works is critical. Many whistleblower lawyers, like those in the U.S., operate on a contingency fee basis. This means you only pay if you win the case. In which case, an attorney will generally obtain a contingency fee of between 30-40%. It’s essential to clarify any fees or charges upfront, so there are no surprises down the road.
6. Ability to Protect Confidentiality
Given the sensitivity of many whistleblower cases, maintaining anonymity and confidentiality is of the utmost importance. A good whistleblower lawyer will ensure your identity is protected throughout the process, particularly if you’re blowing the whistle on powerful entities.
7. Assess their Proactivity and Dedication
Does the lawyer or the firm proactively engage in advancing the rights of whistleblowers beyond their immediate practice? Establishing laws, regulations, and legal precedents pro bono demonstrates a genuine commitment to the cause.
8. Resources and Network
In some cases, especially those that involve large corporations or government entities, the process can be long and resource-intensive. Ensure the attorney or firm you choose has the necessary resources and network to take on big players.
9. International Understanding
For those outside the U.S., understanding how U.S. whistleblower laws can be leveraged is crucial. A lawyer who is well-versed in international whistleblowing implications will be a valuable asset.
10. Open Communication
Your whistleblower lawyer should be approachable, keeping the lines of communication open. They should be willing to explain complex legal terms in understandable language and keep you updated on the progress of your case.
Understanding the Financial Impacts
One of the pressing concerns for many is the cost associated with hiring the best whistleblower lawyer. In the U.S., it’s common for these lawyers to work on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that if the whistleblower doesn’t win their case, they owe nothing to the attorney. However, in case of a win, fees generally range between 30-40%. Moreover, many whistleblower laws have “statutory fee” provisions, ensuring that winning cases have the company paying for all “reasonable” attorney fees.
The Global Perspective
While many countries don’t follow the contingency fee model, the U.S. stands out in this regard. International whistleblowers often benefit from this structure when they retain U.S.-based attorneys, freeing them from upfront costs.
One must always be prepared for setbacks. If a whistleblower loses their case, they typically don’t bear the financial burden of the opposing counsel’s attorney fees, especially in U.S. Department of Labor litigations. However, in federal courts, should a lawsuit be deemed frivolous, the whistleblower may be liable for sanctions.
Whistleblowing is an act of bravery and integrity. However, this path should never be walked alone. With the right legal representation, you can navigate this complex journey with confidence, ensuring that not only is the truth exposed, but your rights and identity are protected every step of the way.
Becoming a whistleblower is a commendable act that can bring to light serious wrongdoings. However, it’s not a path one should walk alone. The stakes are high, and having the right legal representation is crucial. By following the above guidelines, you can find the best whistleblower lawyer to represent and guide you through this challenging journey. Remember, the goal is not just to expose the truth but also to ensure you are protected every step of the way.
It is often difficult to find a whistleblower lawyer and obtain qualified counsel. Many whistleblowers still proceed pro se (i.e., represent themselves), often because they cannot afford or locate an attorney. We strongly recommend that whistleblowers seeking representation carefully read Rules for Whistleblowers: A Handbook for Doing What’s Right (Lyons Press 2023). This book sets forth the essential elements of all modern whistleblower laws. You must understand how these laws work, so you are in the best position to “sell” your case to a prospective attorney.
SEC Dodd-Frank Act Confidential Informant. Protecting the confidentiality of Wall Street whistleblowers is among the most important breakthroughs in federal whistleblower law. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, whistleblowers can file anonymous cases, and everything about their case, including who they sued, remains secret.
Our SEC whistleblower law firm has prevailed in significant cases, including one of the largest SEC awards granted to date. To maintain the secrecy of this whistleblower, we can only report that he or she obtained a reward within the top-five ever given by the SEC – a whistleblower informant award of over $30 million.
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto represented an anonymous whistleblower, who on May 17, 2021, received a whistleblower award of almost $13.5 million. The SEC Issues More Than $31 Million in Whistleblower Awards related to this case, which involved securities law violations.
Founding partner KKC Stephen M. Kohn commended this whistleblower for his or her courage, perseverance, and determination for speaking out against the fraudster. The whistleblower was compensated for the years of sacrifice and suffering, and will continue seeking full justice.
Awards such as these further demonstrate that the Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower laws covering securities, commodities and foreign bribery crimes work. They deter crime, put fraudster in jail, recover billions for investors, and protect the integrity of the markets. The SEC has created the safest reporting system ever devised to incentivize the disclosure of fraud.
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