Legal Guide

7 Traits of a Great MSPB Attorney

Federal employees who have issues with their benefits or job security may find themselves in a case before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The MSPB is a quasi-judicial agency responsible for reviewing the evidence in these cases and issuing a decision.

Like other administrative proceedings, the appeals process before the MSPB looks and feels a lot like a case in court. As a result, federal employees usually feel more comfortable having a lawyer represent them.

In addition to easing some of the stress associated with the process, having a lawyer comes with a number of other benefits. But how do you know if you’ve picked the right one? While every lawyer is different, here are some traits that usually indicate a great MSPB lawyer.

1. Experience

Perhaps the biggest indicator of whether a lawyer is best for you is their experience. That isn’t to say that new attorneys can’t also be great. But the reality is that a lawyer with many years of experience will simply be better prepared to handle a case. This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with government agencies, since their processes are often more complex.

There’s no “magic number” of years you should look for. Instead, ask them about their experience during your initial consultation.

2. Knowledge of the MSPB

The MSPB is one of several agencies that MSPB attorneys should be relatively familiar with. For example, an MSPB attorney should be knowledgeable about not only the MSPB itself, but also

●      Retirement and disability benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM);

●      The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS);

●      Whistleblower claims and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC); and

●      The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and discrimination claims.

All of these areas have one major thing in common: they relate to federal employees’ rights. A great MSPB lawyer will have experience not only with the MSPB itself, but also with other issues that affect federal employees.

Along with experience, this knowledge results in a lawyer who is well-equipped to assist you with your federal employment claims.

3. Empathy and Personal Attention to Your Case

In addition to “hard skills,” like analytical reasoning and experience, a great MSPB lawyer will also have several “soft skills.” One of these skills is empathy and the ability to provide personalized attention to their clients.

Federal employees who find themselves in front of the MSPB are likely dealing with a serious disability or the stress of losing their job. A great MSPB attorney will understand this and make sure that you feel comfortable with them and how they handle your case.

Some law firms prefer to operate through paralegals and associates. This is something you can (and should) ask about during your initial consultation. If you’re uncomfortable with someone other than the attorney you meet with handling your case, it is good to understand how the firm handles cases before hiring them.

4. Responsiveness and Good Communication

Along with empathy and personal attention, responsiveness and good communication are also indicators of a great lawyer. If you have questions or concerns about your case, you should be able to ask your lawyer about them. A great lawyer will be able to give you an answer in a timely manner and without making you feel like you’re bothering them.

A great MSPB lawyer will also keep you updated on the progress of your case. Cases before the MSPB may take up to six months to reach a resolution. While this is very short compared to other legal proceedings, it may still feel like a long time when disability benefits or employment are on the line. An MSPB lawyer will make the process as easy as possible by keeping you informed about developments with your case.

5. Transparency About Fees and Expenses

Few law firms advertise their prices online. As a result, often the only way to find out how much legal services cost is to speak with the attorney. When you do, a great MSPB lawyer will be open and honest about the cost of their services.

Unfortunately, the exact cost is difficult to estimate before any legal work has been done. However, a lawyer should be able to provide you with information about what you can expect to pay. On any bills you do receive, you should have a clear idea of where your money is going.

6. Good Reputation

Any attorney will tell you that reputation is everything. If you’re looking to hire an MSPB lawyer (or any lawyer), it is always a good idea to check their reputation. Some state bar associations provide disciplinary records for the attorneys registered with them. Keep in mind, however, that some attorney discipline organizations may not publicly disclose minor infractions.

Often the best way to check an attorney’s reputation is through reviews from other clients or attorney rating websites. Avvo, for example, provides attorney ratings by practice area, state, or even city. Google search reviews are also a good resource.

In addition, many attorneys provide client ratings or testimony directly on their website. If you do find something that concerns you, it may be something you can discuss during an initial consultation. These meetings are often free and allow you and the attorney to speak before you make a final decision about hiring them.

7. You Get Along Well With Them

How well you get along with the attorney is an important trait that often goes overlooked. It’s just as important to make sure you actually like your lawyer as assessing their experience.

Since MSPB cases can last up to six months, it is important to make sure you are satisfied with the person you will be working with.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, an attorney’s experience will be their most important trait. However, there are a lot of experienced attorneys. Accordingly, it is helpful to take the time to make sure the attorney is the right one for you.

As mentioned above, there is no “one size fits all” approach to practicing law; for example, the communication style or frequency that works for one client may not be right for you. Taking all these things into consideration can help you choose a great MSPB lawyer that also works best for your legal needs.

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