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Lawyers Who Can Save You in a Bad Economy


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Trusts and estates are the specialty of lawyer Judy Lee, of Goodsill Anderson Quill & Stifel.

Photo: Olivier Koning

With the unemployment rate near a 30-year high, tourism in the Islands declining markedly and owners struggling to hold onto their homes, it’s comforting to know that there are legal professionals you can turn to if you find yourself in trouble. These lawyers stand up for your rights, keep your business afloat, help plan for your future and mediate your marital problems. We talked to four on this year’s Best Lawyers List who can guide you through this rough economy. We hope you won’t need their services, but it never hurts to learn from the experts.

Receiving Your Benefits

Losing your job affects much more than your bank account, which is why it’s important to know what your rights are, and whether you were justly terminated and receiving the benefits you deserve. That’s where labor and employment lawyer David Simons comes in. While many in his specialty represent employers, Simons represents employees who have been—or may be—terminated.

“I sit down with them and analyze their situation and find out what really happened and try to understand it emotionally, business-wise and financially,” says Simons, who was licensed in 1977 and has his own practice.

Simons looks over his client’s employee history at the company—reprimands, leaves of absence, employer reviews, reason for termination as well as salary, including benefits, pensions and bonuses—to determine if the termination was handled according to the law. He even meets with the client’s spouse and family, as they are affected by the termination, too.

“You’re very emotional when these things happen, and you should be, but you’re also very subjective, you only see your point of view,” says Simons. “For both of those reasons it’s a good idea to get somebody from the outside who can at least look at the situation objectively with you.”

If you’re working now but worried, Simons recommends knowing where you stand as an employee. He works with clients who feel they might be terminated to analyze the situation and has ghostwritten letters highlighting an employee’s accomplishments to open up communication with their bosses. If an employee has already been let go, he makes sure their severance package is appropriate, and that they receive unemployment payment  (including COBRA insurance) or their pension and 401(K) funds. One thing he doesn’t do, however, is attempt to get the client’s job back. “It’s more efficient for everybody to have the person move on and find another job.”

Attorney Judy Lee likens financial planning to car insurance. “You get the insurance and pay for it every year and hope that you don’t get into an accident, but, if you do, you’re really happy you did pay for it and have it in place.”

If an employee was illegally terminated, Simons represents his client in court. However, wronged as someone may feel by a termination, many of Simons’ clients are legitimately let go, especially given the rough economy. “[I’m seeing] more people being separated from long-term jobs who have good track records,” says Simons.

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Honolulu Magazine April 2018
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