If you have been presented with a severance agreement, you may have leverage to negotiate a better agreement and higher payment.  However, most workers who have such potential leverage do not capitalize from it.

Why not?  The reasons are many.

Most workers simply fail to recognize their best potential legal rights, claims and leverage. Workers lack the expertise needed to diagnose legal rights, a task best left to an employee rights attorney who has the experience and skill set for such an evaluation. Many, like me, have dealt with thousands of severance, litigation and settlement scenarios. Believe it or not, we’ve learned a lot from those experiences, not to mention the years of education from sources that are much more comprehensive and detailed than the incomplete and scattershot summaries that can be self-perused on the internet.

Unfortunately, many workers who fail to recognize their best legal rights also believe they can self-diagnose their legal rights and severance leverage. Worse, they almost always misdiagnose their rights and leverage. Worse yet, they often reference their misdiagnosed legal rights to the employer, and often move negotiations backward as a result.  Employers usually do not make the mistake of self-diagnosis, and usually consult with an attorney before making employment-law related decisions.

It is easy for workers– especially professional and managerial types who are generally good problem-solvers– to think they can effectively diagnose their potential legal rights and severance leverage.

Maybe you think you can. After all, you know the facts of what happened to you. You can read. You understand the information on websites of the Dept. of Labor or EEOC, or this blog, etc. that talk about legal rights.  You can (you may think) take your facts, apply your knowledge of the law from the resources you read, and (here’s where things usually get way off-track) put it all together with a valid legal diagnosis and negotiation strategy.

Before you head off on the route of legal self-diagnosis and severance negotiation– the route of effective negotiation, that is– you’ll need answers to the following five questions.

(1) What are all of your potential legal claims?

(2) What range of results, i.e. specific monetary and non-monetary results, is theoretically possible for each potential claim?

(3) What realistic range of results is likely for each potential claim, based on real-world chances of success for those claims and real-world behavior of judges and others potentially involved in the processes at hand?

(4) Why should your opposing employer take you seriously if you mention potential employment law rights or litigation but you are not represented by a employment litigation attorney?

(5) Is the final offer you’re considering a good one, in light of the factors above?

These are questions that could be answered, and answered well, by a competent employee rights attorney. I have dealt with thousands of workers– many, I freely admit, much smarter than myself– but have never met one who could answer all the important questions above. Or even the majority of them, for that matter. That is because the answers depend on years of legal research and experiences that a non-lawyer simply doesn’t have.

If you want an employee rights attorney to answer the questions above for you, before any negotiation of your severance occurs, many of us are willing to have a free initial consultation to discuss such answers. A free consult is not bad. Especially as compared to the costs and lost opportunities that self-help often brings.