The ‘Wizard of Oz’ approach to employment law

Today is Friday. If you are anything like me, you are making plans in your mind for the weekend. Maybe a run. Maybe some laundry. Maybe you are the person who needs some long awaited alone time in your family. Maybe you are planning on wearing your PJs all Saturday with your 18 month old, so you can snuggle and read books. Yes, dead give away – that is my weekend plan.

Tonight, rather than calmly telling your loving and devoted spouse that you want to play golf tomorrow, or go for a hike or go fishing, you should hire an attorney to write your spouse a letter, or send a text. The attorney should write:

Dear Mrs. Morgan:

I represent your husband. He has retained me to inquire whether you are willing to allow him a few moments of freedom tomorrow so that he can engage in recreational activity, the nature of which is yet to be determined.

This will likely require a 4-6 hour window away from the family beginning at around 9am.

Please respond to this request in writing before 6pm this evening, or we will deem the request to be granted and understood.

Very truly yours, Attorney Joe Schmoe

By: J


Would I really advise someone to hire an attorney to communicate a basic and reasonable request to a spouse they still love and want to remain married to? Of course not.

Attorneys typically get involved when there is conflict that cannot be resolved between parties. It is a waste of time and money to have an attorney make a request to your wife at dinner – don’t you think?

So why then, Virginia employee, would you think it appropriate and helpful to hire an attorney to send your new employer a letter demanding changes to your new employment contract? Don’t you want your employer to like you? Don’t you want to get along? Isn’t your requested change reasonable and just? Don’t you agree that having a lawyer speak on your behalf seems threatening, unnecessary and aggressive?

I do.

That is why when you – Virginia employee – call me to ask for advice and evaluation of your potential employment agreement, and you may want to negotiate new and better terms, I let you do the talking. I may help draft written communication (from you), advise certain changes and language, but I serve my role as YOUR ADVISOR – the man (in my case woman) behind the curtain.

Do you recall the reverence Dorothy felt toward “The great and powerful Oz,” up until the moment she met the great and powerful Oz?

I do.

Once she met the guy she knew he was a joke.

If you enter into an employment arrangement with a lawyer by your side because you can’t speak for yourself, things don’t often go well. Now I agree there are exceptions. I am sure when any A list celebrity agrees to a film, the lawyers go to town on the contracts before work ever starts. Please remember, you are not a celebrity. You are a normal, doctor, lawyer, plumber, insurance rep or accountant. You want to make a good impression. You want to protect yourself (thereby you hire a lawyer) without jeopardizing your new role with the presence of a lawyer.

You want to be thoughtful, smart and productive. I seriously doubt your colleagues will consider you any of these traits if your first inclination is to hire the lawyer to do the talking.

Don’t believe me?

Have an attorney send your wife an email tonight and let me know how that goes. If she believes the communication appropriate, lovely and well received, then I suggest you have your same attorney call your new boss to negotiate your new contract on your behalf too.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at