This article is reprinted with permission from the September 2001 issue of Perspectives.

Asking a lawyer when a human resource professional should use a lawyer may seem self-serving, but it is an important question, and one that has been raised in recent PHRA programs. This is one lawyer's response to that question. In the next issue of Perspectives, we will provide a glossary of key legal terms to help HR professionals work with their lawyers.

I. The Earlier, The Better

Some people may feel that the time to call the lawyer is when a lawsuit is filed. This approach is "pennywise and pound foolish" because the high costs of defending lawsuits (even if your company is successful) can often be avoided or reduced if lawyers are consulted early in the process. This is because experienced employment lawyers will have knowledge (both real and through court opinions) as to how a particular factual situation will be viewed by a third party (e.g., judge, jury or administrative agency). The lawyer may also know what has worked and not worked for other employers under similar circumstances. This article will consider four situations not involving litigation when an employment lawyer should be consulted.