If you are thinking about filing a False Claims Act case, one of the most important decisions you will make is your choice of attorney. Choose your attorney carefully and consider whether he or she has experience in qui tam lawsuits. Qui tam litigation is a specialized area of the law, and most attorneys do not have experience in this narrow field of law.
When choosing an attorney, don’t base your decision on advertisements or web site appearances, and avoid attorneys who are quick to sign you up in order to collect a referral fee from a lawyer in another firm who will actually be doing the work on your case.
You should meet and talk with the lawyer who will be doing most of the work on your case. If an attorney says they have had success in bringing FCA cases, ask for specific examples of success.
A lawyer who misrepresents the experience of others as their own is best avoided right from the start. Many False Claims Act cases are national in scope.
Geographic proximity to an attorney should not be your primary concern when your case is national in scope. Ask about the attorney’s record of working with government lawyers and investigators in prosecuting qui tam lawsuits, and whether they have the resources to pursue a case if it is declined by the government. What contingency plans do they have to retain additional lawyers if that becomes necessary?
Develop a basic understanding of the False Claims Act before you begin reaching out to contact an attorney. The more you know, the better prepared you will be in evaluating any possible legal representation offered. Organize your thoughts and information before you begin reaching out to possible False Claims Act attorneys.
One suggestion is to take two pieces of paper. On the first page tell a story that includes the “who, what, where, when, and how much” of the fraud. Detail what agency was defrauded, the basics of how the fraud works, the size of the fraud, and how you came to know about the fraud, but carefully omit the name of the company and any company-identifying information. On the second page, snap a line across the middle of the page, and above this line detail the evidence you have in hand to support the story on the first page: emails, spread sheets, contracts, billing records, training materials, PowerPoint presentations, copies of canceled checks, voice mails, audio or video tape, etc. Below this line, list the titles of the people inside the company and outside the company who should be contacted and questioned if an investigation is initiated. Now you have a simple organized story, an inventory of evidence in hand, and a list of potential interviewees for government investigators to talk to should they decide to further explore this case.