How to Choose the Best Whistleblower Lawyer
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. 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 a whistleblower lawyer for free?
In the United States, many whistleblower lawyers 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 whistleblower lawyers 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.
Do I need a lawyer to be a whistleblower?
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 lawyer?
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 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.
What are the limits of this FAQ? Is there a disclaimer concerning the information presented here?
Whistleblower laws are complex. There are several qui tam or reward laws that can result in a whistleblower obtaining a multi-million-dollar judgment. Each of these laws has specific filing requirements. Additionally, there are over 50 different federal anti-retaliation laws designed to protect whistleblowers from discrimination. Again, each of these laws has various lengths of statutes of limitation, filing procedures, and definition of a protected disclosure.
These FAQs give whistleblowers an overview of significant whistleblower qui tam, reward, or anti-retaliation laws. They are not comprehensive. If you believe you may have a whistleblower case, you should contact an attorney and obtain specific advice based on the facts of your case. You cannot rely only on the information in this FAQ to determine whether or not you have a valid claim.
A critical resource for those thinking of blowing the whistle is The New Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself (Lyons Press 2017). The Handbook contains a detailed discussion on all major whistleblower laws and has extensive citations to legal cases and statutes the protect whistleblowers. It is an invaluable resource.
Because of the complexity of the whistleblower laws, we disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this FAQ. The FAQ is a summary guide to understanding your rights. You should contact an attorney with expertise in whistleblowing before you make a disclosure. You must know your rights before you “blow the whistle,” so you can ensure that your conduct will be protected.
Can the whistleblower attorneys working at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto help me?
The whistleblower law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto has a straightforward intake process. It is available here. Every intake is confidential, and the information provided protected under the attorney-client privilege. A senior partner at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto reads each intake submission.
The intake process is free of charge.
Unfortunately, KKC receives many more requests for assistance then it can handle and must turn away many qualified whistleblowers. If KKC cannot represent you, you still may have a solid case.
If KKC believes you may have a case with which it can help you, you will receive a follow-up call or email to obtain more information and determine whether or not our firm can represent you. Until you have a signed written agreement with the firm, we are not your attorneys (although all of the information you provide to us is privileged and confidential). Almost all of our cases are on a contingency fee basis.