Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do I Find a Whistleblower Lawyer?
Blowing the whistle is serious business. Your job, reputation, and career may be on the line. Finding a whistleblower lawyer should be your first priority. Not all whistleblower disclosures are lawful or protected. You need to know how to blow the whistle and protect yourself.
Moreover, many whistleblower laws permit you to obtain a financial reward. It is essential that when you blow the whistle, you understand your rights.
Can I get an attorney for free?
In the United States, many attorneys work for a “contingency” fee. If the whistleblower loses his or her case, the whistleblower does not have to pay the attorney any money. But if the whistleblower wins the case, their attorney will generally obtain a contingency fee of between 30-40%.
Additionally, many whistleblower laws have “statutory fee” provisions. Under these provisions, if the whistleblower wins, the company must pay all “reasonable” attorney fees incurred on behalf of the client.
Finally, although many whistleblowers have a “contingency fee” arrangement, many firms will charge a whistleblower an hourly fee. There are many reasons that firms charge such a rate. Having to pay an attorney a fee is not a good reason to reject retaining legal representation.
It is Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto’s general practice to represent whistleblowers on a contingency fee basis.
If I live outside the United States, can I obtain a free attorney?
Outside of the United States, most attorneys charge their clients fees. However, the United States has a different pay-model based on a contingency fee (see above). Thus, international whistleblowers who retain attorneys in the United States often do not have to pay any up-front attorney fees.
If I lose my case, must I pay the fees of opposing counsel?
Under the virtually universally followed general rule, if a whistleblower loses their case, he/she does not have to pay the attorney fees incurred by opposing counsel. This general rule is especially true in whistleblower cases litigated within the U.S. Department of Labor. In these cases, there are strict rules preventing companies from ever obtaining any fees or costs from whistleblowers who lose their cases. There are even limits on the number of sanctions given if a whistleblower files a frivolous lawsuit, in bad faith.
In federal court, whistleblowers do not have to pay fees to a corporation if they lose their case. However, if a lawsuit is frivolous and pursued in bad faith, the whistleblower may be liable for sanctions. A losing party in federal court is often liable to pay court costs, which are very small when compared with attorney fees.
It is nearly impossible for a whistleblower who files under the SEC and IRS reward laws to be liable for attorney fees from his or her employer. This situation is especially true if they maintain their confidentiality.
Will Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto represent you?
The founding partners of the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto all have over 30 years’ experience representing whistleblowers. If KKC agrees to represent you, one of our founding partners will manage your case. This hands-on approach by KKC partners makes it very difficult for the law firm to represent all of the whistleblowers who contact our firm. A founding partner does review every intake form received through the contact us form on our website.
If Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto cannot represent you, what choices do you have?
The law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto works, pro bono, with the non-profit National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Whistleblower Center. These organizations have networks of attorneys who are willing to review whistleblower cases. If our firm cannot represent you, we recommend that you contact these organizations to obtain assistance or referrals.
Is KKC right for you?
Currently, our practice areas include the following: SEC whistleblower claims, IRS whistleblower claims, qui tam cases, False Claims Act cases, commodity fraud cases, tax frauds and underpayments cases, illegal foreign bank accounts, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, foreign bribery, money laundering, bank secrecy and bank frauds, Medicare and Medicaid frauds, pharmaceutical misconduct or frauds, government contracting frauds, illegal use of federal or state monies, securities fraud and illegal imports into the United States (including illegal imports of plants, fish, endangered species and lumber).
The three founding partners of our firm have exclusively represented whistleblowers since 1984 (Stephen Kohn), 1985 (Michael Kohn) and 1988 (David Colapinto). Our managing partner, Mary Jane Wilmoth, joined the firm in 1993. The firm’s record on winning whistleblower cases is second to none. We obtained the largest award ever given to an individual whistleblower, won numerous reward and retaliation cases, and have worked with Congress and executive agencies in drafting the laws and rules governing whistleblowers. Our partners have written the most books published on whistleblower laws. In 1988 the firm’s partners helped to found the National Whistleblower Center, and they are highly committed to advocating pro bono for whistleblowers. They successfully established many of the whistleblower laws, regulation, and legal precedents that now benefit all whistleblowers.
What other steps can I take to obtain a whistleblower attorney?
It is often difficult to 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 The New Whistleblower’s Handbook. 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.