Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lawyer Needed

I've never needed the services of a lawyer before but I'm finally ready to employ one. No, luckily, I'm not in trouble. Someone else may be but I need to check. And, if they're not in trouble, at least they're being a pain in my ass; a burr under my butt that I'd like a lawyer to pluck. I just don't know how to go about finding legal help without flipping open the phone book.

A little background on my situation: the company I used to work for did some kind of Three Card Monty with their stock options a few years back. They did a "recapitalization" and promised cash for a portion of our old options. "Okay, whatever, I'll be here forever so I'll try to do what's best for the company and just take the minimum water from the well that's required," I thought to myself, not knowing that I'd be gone a few months later. I was told that we'd get a slight payout, a pittance, and that the bulk of our money would go into an escrow account to be released in November 2006.

March of 2006 I got a call from the COO from the company telling me that I somehow owed them $10K due to a "foul up" by their payroll company. He claimed that the $10K was owed for taxes on the cash in escrow. "Pay first, payout later," was the line he was trying to sell me. Why I owed so much and how this was my responsibility eluded me. "Frankly," I said recalling that he hadn't had the guts or respect to fire me himself and sent a lackey to do it a few months prior, "I don't trust you. I want a clear and concise break down on why these monies are owed."

Days turned to weeks and April 15th loomed larger before I got a letter with a single Excel Spreadsheet line of thought as my "clear, concise break down." Not even my accountant could make it out. He pretty much told me to just leave well enough alone and that things would either come to a head or straighten themselves out come November.

Fall was quickly turning to winter and Christmas was coming up when I realized that I had gone all November without getting either a threatening message or massive check. So, where was this promised "escrow money"? Thus began my series of emails and phone calls to the CFO of my old employer. These went unreturned. Just before the New Year I got a letter that explained how I owed a little less than $10K and that the money was still in escrow (with no date of it coming out in sight).

This leaves me with no paperwork on the stock options (they kept it all and I didn't make copies -- oh, what a trustworthy fool I was), a few vague letters, and a real hankering to get a lawyer on their case to sort this matter out in my favor. So, do I call Sam Bernstein or is there a better way of picking a lawyer than to see who's shilling during the 2 AM re-runs of "Iron Sides" ? I imagine I need a Contract of Fiscal specialist rather than an ambulance chaser. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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