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Litigation FAQ

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What kind of litigation do you handle?

Scott & Whitehead handles the defense of wrongful discharge, discrimination and harassment, and overtime and other wage and hour litigation, including class actions.

We also regularly deal with unfair competition suits involving non-compete, and non-solicitation clauses. We represent employers in actions against employees who breach their confidentiality and proprietary information or their trade secret agreements after termination.

Some of our clients identify what court cases they want us to handle by recognizing the names of government agencies we regularly take on: Department of Fair Employment and Housing; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; OSHA; Cal OSHA; U.S. Department of Labor; National Labor Relations Board; Division of Labor Standards Enforcement; and the Employment Development Department.

Other clients send us all matters dealing with specific laws such as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Title VII, California Labor Code, Fair Labor Standards Act, Equal Pay Act, FMLA, CFRA, California Pregnancy Disability Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, WARN Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Why do so many employers have unexpected and bad experiences in employment litigation?

Over and over, we have seen the sad results when employers simply turn over defense of employment litigation to their lawyers. Defense costs soar, and after paying for a Cadillac defense, the client is advised to settle for a sizable sum just before trial. It is then that the reality may set in: the case might have been disposed of for much, much less earlier on, if there had been a clearly-outlined defense strategy from the beginning.

What does Scott & Whitehead do to avoid client sticker shock?

We take our employer clients through a two-step analysis with every new piece of employment litigation.

What is the first step of your litigation analysis?

First Step: Early Determination of Case Philosophy.

Too many lawyers receive a case from a client and just start billing. Only months or years later, after full-tilt attorneys' fees have been incurred, is there discussion about where the case is going and how it will be brought to conclusion.

That's not the Scott & Whitehead way.

As soon as a client contacts us about a piece of litigation, we begin what becomes an on-going discussion about the case, and how it will be brought to resolution.

We ask our clients, can we move beyond the emotion that often accompanies labor and employment litigation and handle this case as a business matter? Can we agree that our mutual objective is to bring this case to a successful conclusion with the lowest possible defense fees, settlement costs and diversion of management resources?

Or, is this a case that must be vigorously defended as a matter of principle? (At times this must be the approach, but we try to help our clients understand that defending principle can be expensive!)

Is the client's response to this litigation necessarily influenced by the need to look beyond one plaintiff, at others "in the wings," who may follow suit and sue?

Sometimes our clients come to us asking that we adopt a "scorched earth" philosophy to litigation. We are quick to point out that such an approach rarely makes good business sense and too frequently results in the expenditure of a great deal in attorneys' fees, only to be followed by spending a large sum in settlement.

While each case is different, generally we promote a business-like approach to litigation: use the least amount of resources and get rid of the distraction as soon as possible. As litigation proceeds, both the responsible Scott & Whitehead attorney and the client need to guide the litigation with an eye to putting the case in a position to be resolved by motion, or by an appropriate settlement, at the earliest appropriate moment.

We really do understand that every day that a case is pending, it is a drain on our clients.

What about staffing our company's litigation?

Second Step: Lean Staffing.

We continue to be surprised when other law firms have two, three or more lawyers actively working a case where we would only have assigned one.

Why the difference?

First, we don't use your litigation to train our junior lawyers. We have no junior lawyers. Our least experienced attorney has been in practice for thirteen years. Our partners average over twenty-five years of experience.

Second, most cases -- even smaller class actions -- only need one responsible attorney. If two or more lawyers have to keep up with all developments in your case, you are paying for lots of law firm internal communication. You shouldn't do that.

Other law firms start with the assumption that your litigation can provide work to help a group of lawyers reach their billable hours targets. When we staff your case, we begin with the assumption that the most efficient way to handle your case is with one experienced lawyer.