How We Get Paid

Employment Lawyers, Contingency Fees, and Free Consultations


If you’ve never worked with an employment lawyer before, you may have some expectations that are based on seeing billboards or TV ads from other types of lawyers.

Specifically, you may think that all lawyers:

  • Offer a free initial consultation; and
  • Are paid only if a client wins (also called a contingency fee).

It’s true that many personal-injury law firms work on a contingency basis, collecting a percentage of any settlement or jury award. Lots of product-liability and medical malpractice lawyers do this, too.

Employment law is often different, however. In many cases there’s no prospect of a big payout that you could share with a lawyer.

You might be hoping simply to keep your job, for example, or to reverse a wrongful firing. You might be battling against unfair discipline, or asking for an accommodation for your disability. You might be trying to change a company’s racist or sexist culture. You might be negotiating an employment contract.

In such cases, success probably doesn’t include a big one-time payment that can be shared with a lawyer.

What’s more, the facts in employment disputes are often seen differently by different people. A situation that seems clear to you may not be clear to a jury. Unlike car accidents, workplace conflicts usually revolve around personalities and prior history. Outcomes are less predictable.

As a result, like many of our peers, our firm often offers its legal skills on an hourly, pay-as-you-go basis. This allows our clients to benefit from our top-tier employment law experience even if the hoped-for outcome — a saved career, a non-harassing environment, the ability to work from home — doesn’t rely on monetary damages.

We occasionally offer contingency representation, especially in whistleblower cases. We’ll discuss this more below.

Do other employment law firms offer different payment options? Certainly: You should shop around. There are lots of factors to weigh, including the lawyer’s experience, the facts of your case, and the likely jurisdiction.


Do You Offer Free Consultations?

Some employment attorneys charge a fee for all initial consultations. One of our top national competitors, for instance, charges a flat $150 fee to everyone who books a consultation online.

Other firms don’t charge at all for initial consultations.

We fall somewhere in-between. Our firm charges for some initial consultations, with a fee that can vary.


At The Employment Law Group, we take consultations very seriously. Our process is different than that of many other firms.

Here is what happens in a typical employment matter — a possible discrimination case, let’s say:

  • Before we even book a consultation, we’ll gather a lot of information from you, along with some key documents. Unlike many firms, we don’t do an employment consultation without reviewing your information in advance.
  • Before your consultation happens, a lawyer will look carefully through all the information you’ve supplied; review any laws that may be relevant; and make a bunch of written notes in preparation for the consultation.
  • For the actual consultation you’ll speak in depth with one of seven principal attorneys at our firm. This top attorney will already have reviewed your information and the preparatory notes. On the call they’ll delve into the most important details of your matter and offer you some preliminary advice.
  • If the principal attorney believes we can help you further, they’ll explain some possible next steps and then send you an “engagement letter” that offers our services. We send such a letter only if we see a possible benefit for you.
  • For most people we talk with, however, a consultation marks the end of our advice.

A typical consultation at The Employment Law Group takes hours of preparation on our end. You’ll spend time with a top lawyer who is already familiar with the details of your case — a contrast to many other law firms.

Is this worth paying for? We believe so, but we don’t try to make a profit on consultations. Instead, we charge a small, variable fee based the details of each case. Anyone who pays for a TELG consultation gets good value, we believe.

That said, we do offer some free consultations.

The most common scenario: When a potential client has been referred to us by another attorney who knows our firm and understands the type of cases we take.


When Do You Offer Contingency Fees?

As mentioned above, most of our employment clients pay by the hour.

However, we sometimes can consider taking cases on a contingency basis. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • If a whistleblower has knowledge of fraud against the federal government — fake or inflated Medicare billing, for instance.
  • If a whistleblower has knowledge of other major fraud, especially at a publicly traded company.
  • If an employee has compelling evidence of wage violations that affect a large number of workers, especially in Virginia.
  • If we believe that your case could advance an important area of law.

There may be other scenarios, too. But again, the economics of employment law aren’t the same as personal-injury law — so contingency cases are the exception, not the rule.

Worth noting: Regardless of how you’re billed, we’ll always try to get your legal fees repaid by the defendant if you have a successful outcome and such an option is supported by law. No guarantees, but we’re good at making this argument.

If you’d like to work with us, please call.