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Answer: I think your original idea of a "legally crafted letter" needs to be pursued, and this time, work out a schedule.
Here's what I would suggest. First find a good attorney - one who is well-versed in employment law and contracts. Next, work out a schedule with the attorney that you and he or she will stick with.
What I'm thinking of in terms of a schedule is something like a deadline for the attorney to send the company a letter; the amount of time to give the company to respond; the amount of time to give the company to start making payments or give you a lump sum payment; and if all else fails, the deadline by which time the attorney will file a complaint in court.
In Mass. you can find employment attorneys through:
Don't actually HIRE an attorney without first checking references. And don't try to pick the attorney's brain on the phone. Schedule an appointment and visit the office, like you would for a doctor!
The important thing, this time around, is follow-through. By letting it go before, it's kind of like threatening a child with discipline if he doesn't clean his room, but then just shutting the door and giving up on it. You need to keep at them, religiously.
A payment plan would probably be easiest for them and have the least immediate tax consequences for you, but if you allow that again, it has to be absolutely clear to the company that if they are late on even ONE payment they can expect a case to be filed against them in court - and follow through. Despite potential tax consequences, if you can get a lump sum payment from them, you'll be done with this and never have to think about it again (make sure that you sign mutual releases).
When you go see an attorney or two for a consultation, it would help if you brought with you (1) a chronology of relevant events and (2) relevant paperwork. (Bring copies of everything for the attorney). This will show the attorney up front that you are organized and intelligent, and make the attorney more willing to take you on as a client.
Expect to pay $200 - $400/hour for this type of service from an attorney in your area (another factor to consider). "Just writing a letter" is not as simple as many people think, because accuracy is essential, the attorney's reputation is on the line, and legal research may be needed (for example, the attorney will probably want to research the statute of limitations related to the later agreement that you say has been breached, just to make sure the matter is still timely).
Expect it to take 10 to 20 hours to write a complaint (lawsuit) to file in court, and expect to pay for filing fees and service of process.
If you want to try again on your own, first, I certainly encourage that, but if you give them a deadline, stick to it. Send your letter by certified, return receipt mail AND regular mail. At the bottom of your letter, type out the certified receipt number, which you can do by obtaining the certified mail receipt from the post office before you write out your letter. Photocopy everything, of course.
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Thank you for your response... however based on the time and complexity (and amount owed) it seems when I have reached out to various legal groups they seem non-responsive or slow to engage. I have no problem doing the leg work to find someone, but how do I find someone that "cares"?
It would seem that your advice points me to quality attorneys, but how can I attract their interest in my situation (other than large $/hr rates) to the point that they will run hard with it? Also, since there is a significant amount outstanding, are attorneys interested in pay for performance based on results?
For example, there is 284k outstanding... putting 5% at risk would be a 14k payout if successful. To me this more than incents someone to want to win this. Especially if a letter is all that produces results. Worse case it goes to court, legal fees could be part of a successful decision and someone could make even more.
I'm struggling to understand how I can find someone that can specific help me and is motivated to win... beyond just having great references.
To find someone who will work hard for you - check references. That's the only way. All business-people advertise that they have the best products, people, etc. - but the only way to find out what is the really the case is to do the legwork.
An attorney who works on contingency (commission) will usually take 25% - 40% of any money received.
Some attorneys are willing to arrange a combination of pay-for-work and commission. It's just a matter of what you can negotiate.
The least expensive approach would be for you to write the initial new letter yourself, but it may be more effective to have this letter come from an attorney.
All attorneys are bound to represent their clients zealously.
I'm not really sure how I can be of further help, but if you have some other follow-up questions, I'll be working here all day today (Monday) if you'd like to write back.
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