Qui tam is shorthand Latin for a longer Latin phrase, which does not appear in the False Claims Act Law statute itself, that roughly translates to “he who will sue for himself as well as the king.” The original idea, dating back to the Middle Ages in England when it was possible to literally sue on behalf of the King was imported into the original False Claims Act in 1863. It created a private right of action to sue on behalf of the Government of the United States when the government is defrauded, and allow individuals to obtain a share of whatever the government was awarded for such a suit.
The qui tam process can be difficult to navigate alone, which is why choosing an experienced DC whistleblower attorney is so important. Read on to learn more about what makes for a good whistleblower attorney and how to go about selecting one.
Working with a Full-Time Whistleblower Attorney
If someone wants to know what to look for in a DC qui tam lawyer, one of the first things they should consider is whether such an attorney concentrates on whistleblower law. There are relatively few lawyers who focus on whistleblower reward laws as a full-time issue. There are not as many as one might think in a country the size of the United States. Indeed, given the size of the federal budget and the size of stock markets, the number of cases brought under the False Claims Act or the SEC whistleblower law is really not that high.
At the same time, though, the case law on the False Claims Act has almost doubled in terms of the number of cases filed in the last 10 years. The law was mostly dormant for many years until 1986, when it was revived through amendments in Congress. During the first five years from 1986, there were not that many cases filed, and then from 1991 or 1992 when people caught on to it, more cases were filed. Starting to look at False Claims Act cases, say, 15 years ago meant there was far less law to review. Now there is much more, which requires lawyers to be more regularly familiar with any developments.
Importance of an Attorney That Stays Updated on Whistleblower Law
All three of the major whistleblower reward programs, the IRS, the SEC, and the CFTC programs, are also relatively new and evolving with respect to what constitutes fraud, what those agencies may pursue, and how they proceed. These are areas that lawyers should constantly be reviewing and learning more about.
A person should seek a lawyer who not only understands the procedures but has some depth of background with respect to what makes a case work or not work. It may be that maintaining a focus on these laws is more valuable now than it was in the past since there simply is more to know now.
Good Rapport with a Lawyer
Another important aspect to choosing a whistleblower lawyer is looking for someone who an individual feels some level of comfort. When filing a different kind of case, it is possible that it may take place over a relatively short period of time. In fact, there are many types of legal actions, which do not involve a long-term relationship with the attorney.
On the other hand, it is often difficult to pursue a False Claims Act case if the lawyer and the potential client do not have a good rapport. The case may take a long time while the government investigates the whistleblower’s claims. Furthermore, that individual can not discuss the case with anyone outside of their own attorney while a False Claims Act case is under seal, so the ability to work with the attorney likely counts for more in this kind of case than most.
This is an individual decision and a difficult issue to provide a dataset of metrics to determine, but each person filing a whistleblower action has to consider the fact that they are going to be working with a lawyer for a while, perhaps even years. One has to be able to work with an attorney and speak frankly with that attorney when they have a concern.
The allegations may involve the most important events in a whistleblower’s life, and yet the whistleblower may have to wait as the government does its job of investigating, learn what the government is considering, and then talk to the lawyer about how to bolster the case. All that requires a level of rapport with an attorney who understands the process and understands how long it can take and understands the burden on the whistleblower in bringing such a case.
Roles of a Whistleblower Lawyer In Your Case
The role of a whistleblower lawyer in DC includes trying to get all the information from the plaintiff-relator and learning about the plaintiff-relator’s industry as much as possible. It also requires explaining the process to a client, which is not always an easy process to go through. Sometimes trying to explain the government’s position may not be exactly what the client wants to hear.
Of course, explaining the client’s position to the government is an important role as well. So there are a lot of sort of intermediary roles, but also roles of trying to put the best case together to present to the government that is possible.
A lawyer is always trying to determine the strength of the case. Certainly initially, trying to determine if the case doesn’t work. The lawyer has to be able to say, “Look, this case is not going to work, sorry.” and or, that in fact, they think it may be a great case.
Value of a Seasoned Attorney
For those attorneys who do it full-time, this commitment can be part of what makes the field rewarding. Working in partnership with a committed whistleblower is what makes most whistleblower lawyers proud of the work they get to do. If you are wondering what to look for in a whistleblower in Washington DC, one of the most important things you can look for is an attorney that could dedicate the time and resources necessary to achieve a positive outcome for you.