Why Do I Need A Lawyer?
This week, I was honored to appear before the Georgia Supreme Court to present oral argument in an appeal on behalf of 11 LEOs who were terminated from their jobs. It was a full circle moment for me in many ways. For years I have been encouraging, and sometimes preaching to, LEOs to get a plan to have a lawyer on their side. While this is especially important after an OIS, the advice rings true in cases of discipline, use of force complaints, and other events when the LEO’s actions are challenged. I also spent a few hours with a great group of IA investigators recently at the Spring Conference of the Georgia Association of Internal Affairs Investigators discussing the same issue.
Today as I argued before the highest court in the State of Georgia, I was reminded that the county and the county employee on the other side had at least one lawyer. In fact, every time I enter a situation with a LEO, her employer has an attorney, or a firm full of attorneys representing the agency head and the government entity. While this is not news to anyone, I am amazed how many LEOs still shy away from lawyers when they need “legal help” or when they enter the arenas of employment law, FLSA claims, or administrative law as with licensing issues.
There is a lesson here. If the folks on the other side have at least one lawyer, shouldn’t you be represented by an attorney? Handling matters on your own is like doing neurosurgery at home; you may save money but the outcome will not be pretty. Find a lawyer now before you are in a rush. Have a way to contact that lawyer after hours if your department does not close operations daily at 1700. Finally, have a plan to pay the lawyer without going broke! I have seen clients spend more money paying me to fix a mess that was relatively simple to resolve at the beginning of the process. The Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Plan is the best plan I know of out there for LEOs. For an annual fee of about $250, the LEO receives unlimited legal representation in most cases with the lawyer of his choosing or an experienced lawyer working with the FOP.
Like anything else, have a plan. Be prepared. You cannot afford to keep a law firm busy every day, but make certain you have one in your corner when you are in the fight! Stay safe.