22 Apr 2013

Employment Law on TV – “The Good Wife” Becomes Management

My wife and I really enjoy watching “The Good Wife” on CBS.  While it has ongoing serial plots, it is basically a “case of the week” legal drama.   While there is dramatic license and everybody gets in front of a judge in about five minutes (unlike the real world), the cases are often fairly realistic and drawn from real-world problems.  Last night’s episode waded into the waters of employment law.

The episode centered around the main character (Alicia) representing some employees of a high-tech company that agreed as a group not to sign their employment contracts without some major changes to their working conditions and pay.  The company responded by firing the employees.  Alicia decided that she would fight the terminations by invoking the National Labor Relations Act, stating that the employees had engaged in “concerted activity” with the intent to form a union.  The two sides had a hearing before an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board the next day (not very likely), and eventually won the right to hold a union election.

Meanwhile, Alicia’s legal assistant overheard much of the discussion about working conditions during the meetings with the firm’s clients. She decided to organize the firm’s legal assistants and petition the partners for increases in wages and benefits.  Alicia was caught in the middle.  She wanted to help the assistants, but as “management,” she had to protect the firm’s financial position. In the end, the partners “cut off the head of the snake” and gave the two ringleaders of the assistant group some extra perks.  Doing this stopped the “rebellion” by the assistants.  This felt like a rushed way to end the story and definitely not realistic.  Once a group has a the idea that they are being mistreated at work, they tend to not let things slide.

What the show failed to address is that legal assistants and paralegals are generally entitled to overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week, and also may be entitled to other wage and hour benefits under state and local law.  If you are unsure whether your current or former position entitles you to overtime, contact me at 678-242-5297 to discuss your rights.

18 Mar 2013

Updated Website & Appellate Law

Coming up on my two year anniversary of opening this firm, I decided an update was in order.  I have recently switched my website to WordPress-based.  This will make it easier to keep the site fresh and updated.  It will also allow me to provide more content without having to outsource the maintenance of the site.  Many businesses are going this route now and it seems to be providing a better way to connect with visitors.  Please let me know if you like the change.

I have also formally added an Appellate Law area of practice.  I hope to expand this area and assist those who have final judgments or intermediate orders that they wish to appeal.  I will expand on this topic in the next few months.

23 Mar 2012

One Year In…

So, Wednesday was my one year anniversary at The Sharman Law Firm LLC.  Let’s review what I have learned so far:

– Marketing and networking are very important, but must be targeted.  In the beginning, I went to just about every meeting.  Now, I am focused on those groups that provide the best opportunity for professional and business growth.

– Responsiveness is key.  Even if it takes a little longer than expected to get a case resolved, it is important to keep clients updated and informed on a regular basis.

– When you work for yourself, the office is never closed.  I find myself thinking about case strategies and legal theories on weekends, as I fall asleep, when I am watching TV, etc.

I look forward to many more years of providing client service and becoming a valuable part of the North Fulton legal community.

26 Jan 2012

When Should You Be Paid For Not Working?

Sometimes, employers must compensate employees for not working. While this seems to make no sense, a quick look at several situations explains why some employees get paid for doing nothing (or very little).

Training If you are required to attend a seminar or other educational meeting, you might be eligible for pay for these sessions. You may also be eligible to be paid for time spent traveling to the location of the meeting.

On-Call This is a major area for litigation over unpaid wages. Some employees are considered “waiting to be engaged.” Typically, these employees are free to do whatever they want with the sole condition that they be available if paged, called or texted by their employer to report to work. The only restrictions on these employees are that they cannot drink alcohol or be too far away from the work location during on-call time. Examples include repair workers, technical support, and back-up firefighters. Other employees are “engaged to wait.” These employees may have down time, but are required to remain on site or restricted from doing other activities. Examples include on-duty firefighters, paramedics, and dispatchers.

Sleep Some employees need to sleep on the job during long shifts. These employees may get compensated for their nap time. Examples include doctors, nurses, and firefighters.

If you have questions about whether you have been properly compensated for “not working,” call Paul at The Sharman Law Firm at 678-242-5297.

30 Aug 2011

To Charge or Not to Charge

As a solo practitioner working mainly on contingency, budgeting and projecting income can be tricky.  Another occupational hazard is making appointments with prospective clients, who then don’t show up and leave me wasting the time it took to get to and from my office and waiting for a no-show.  Some other solos have encouraged me to charge a nominal fee for appointments.  They insist that it helps cash flow and separates those that are serious about their legal issue from those who may decide not to bother showing up.

While I have not implemented this strategy yet, I can see the purpose.  Charging $100 or $150 shows the prospective client that your time is valuable and not to be wasted.  It also gives them a sense that they are receiving something of value in the legal advice you impart, even if they do not become a client beyond that meeting.

For now, the marketing benefits of free consultation outweigh the monetary benefits of charging for an appointment.  This is probably something to revisit when my firm is more established.

23 Jul 2011


From my old stomping grounds of South Florida comes this interesting story:


This type of thing happens more than we would think. The problem here is that they let this employee have Saturdays off for two years and then changed the rule. The nursing home will be unlikely to prevail on a “business necessity” defense. There is an exemption under Title VII for employment in religion-affiliated organizations, but only for positions that are directly connected to the religion: priest, rabbi, etc.