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Need a Washington, DC Whistleblower Attorney? Here are the 3 Most Important Things to Know
Thursday, May 9, 2024

Hiring a whistleblower lawyer or law firm is the best way to maximize the odds of success in a whistleblower case in Washington, D.C. With the experienced legal advice of a lawyer, whistleblowers can make informed decisions about how to proceed in their case rather than mere educated guesses that come from a lack of experience, a stressful situation, and unfamiliarity with how to move forward. 

Hiring the right lawyer for your case is not easy, though. Three important things to know are:

  1. Not all Washington DC whistleblower attorneys or law firms are the same
  2. You will generally benefit from having a large law firm at your back
  3. There are numerous reasons to hire a law firm early on in the process

1. Not All Whistleblower Lawyers are the Same

Thinking of the US Securities and Exchange Commission whistleblower law or the DC False Claims Act as a single practice area would be a mistake. Instead, whistleblower law is merely a process by which private citizens – whistleblowers – can gather and present incriminating evidence about a corporation to law enforcement personnel and, if that law enforcement agency chooses not to get involved in the case, file a lawsuit under one of several federal statutes that permit it and hold the wrongdoer accountable. 

The nature of a whistleblower case can vary widely. For example, False Claims act matters can involve allegations of:

  • Defense contractor fraud of government contracts
  • Healthcare fraud
  • False claims for compensation against a state or federal program
  • Investment or securities fraud
  • Environmental violations

These are extremely different fields of expertise in whistleblower laws, and most whistleblower attorneys in Washington, D.C., focus on a small subset of them. 

Finding a lead counsel who is familiar with the particular subject matter at issue in your claim is essential. 

Understanding the facts of the case is necessary before an attorney can offer reasonable legal advice or practical input. Unfortunately, many whistleblower cases involve nuanced and extremely detailed factual circumstances that give rise to misconduct. It is not uncommon for expert witnesses to be required to explain the case to a jury should the whistleblower case go to trial. However, That struggle to understand your case can plague whistleblower lawyers unfamiliar with your industry or chosen profession. That is why whistleblowers should make sure that they hire a lawyer who has as many of the following as possible:

  • Prior case results in the same industry or subject matter
  • Experience presenting cases to the federal agency that would have jurisdiction over your case
  • Prior work experience in your profession or field
  • An educational background in the same or similar subject matter

This way, you can rest assured that your lawyer will understand and appreciate the evidence you uncover without a detailed explanation.

2. Big Law Firms are Often Better for Your Interests

Generally speaking, large law firms can better represent a whistleblower’s interests in these extremely time-consuming and complex cases. 

The best way to understand why is to review the early stages of these cases. Broadly speaking, they follow this pattern: 

  1. You first notice signs of illegal behavior or other misconduct
  2. An investigation confirms your suspicions
  3. You decide to blow the whistle on the conduct and report fraud
  4. You hire a whistleblower lawyer
  5. With the help of your lawyer you continue to gather evidence of the wrongful behavior
  6. You build a strong case and reach out to the relevant law enforcement agency
  7. You and your lawyer present your case to federal investigators

At this point, it will be up to the government agencies to decide whether to intervene in your case or not. If they do, they will take over the investigation and put several or potentially even dozens of investigators to the task, leaving relatively little for you and your legal team to do.

If they choose not to intervene, you will have to choose between continuing the investigation without the federal agency's help or dropping your case completely.

Most whistleblowers want to continue. However, doing so without the help of federal investigators can be difficult. Conducting a thorough investigation can take considerable time, and the money spent on it can be surprisingly high. 

In many cases, small firms with one or two attorneys and investigators struggle to see these cases through if the federal agency chooses to sit them out. Hiring a larger law firm from the start is often a better move to avoid whistleblower retaliation.

3. For Many Reasons, Going it Alone is Unwise

Perhaps the most important thing to know about whistleblower cases is that getting a lawyer on board right away is essential for success. It is incredibly rare for whistleblowers to find themselves in this situation more than once, so odds are you are in unfamiliar territory. This is not just stressful; it is dangerous for your professional future. If you get discovered by the target of the investigation, you will lose access to the incriminating information, at the very least.

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