Dan Baldwin 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Co-Workers, Friends, Opposing Counsel Come Full Circle As Colleagues Again When Darrel Jackson joined Matheson & Matheson, P.L.C. the experience was a remarkably easy transition. Co-founder Michelle Matheson and Jackson worked together in the legal department of America West Airlines and U.S. Airways from 2002 until 2006. Jackson was instrumental in getting Matheson to join the airline – an offer she returned years later by encouraging Jackson to leave his in-house position and return to private practice. Matheson left U.S. Airways in 2006 and formed Matheson & Matheson with her husband, David, in 2007. Jackson left the airline in 2007 to work at the Arizona Public Service Company, but the three stayed in contact as professionals and as friends. At one point the friends found themselves opposing each other in a case. They were able to resolve the matter satisfactorily for both sides. “It was a great experience,” Jackson says. Occasionally the three discussed the possibility of Jackson returning to private practice and joining their firm, but he was satisfied in his current position and wasn’t really interested in making a change. But when Michelle and her husband decided last year to expand the firm and add another senior attorney on the employment side, their conversations with Jackson became serious. “I very much had a desire to work with Darrel. I trust him. He is someone I can turn files over to and kick ideas around with,” she says. Jackson adds, “I was very interested in working with Michelle. We had worked well together at the airline.” Jackson was giving the move back to private practice more serious consideration at that time. “We both worked at big firms and then Michelle told me of her experience of working at a small firm in a boutique environment. I thought I’d better give that a shot. And what better way to do that than to come back to an environment with someone I can trust and will enjoy working with,” Jackson says. In November 2011 he joined the firm. “I had run out of excuses,” he said. “I mean, here was a place where I could work on existing business, build up my own practice and they already had an office up and running. If I was ever to go back into private practice this was likely the best opportunity I’d ever have.” Big Firm Experience With A Small Firm Price The firm, through Matheson and Jackson, represents individuals and organizations of all sizes in civil employment litigation and federal, state and local government investigations throughout Arizona. Their focus is on claims for unpaid overtime or minimum wages. They also handle claims involving employment or non-competition agreements, severance agreements, retaliation and whistleblower claims, discrimination and harassment claims, internal workplace investigations, workplace training, and unemployment compensation hearings. Michelle Matheson has handled more than 200 grievance and arbitration hearings and has tried cases before the Arizona state, federal and appeals courts. Many of her clients are professional women. She has an AV rating from Martindale Hubble and was just listed as one of the Southwest Super Lawyers in employment law. Jackson has defended and managed employment litigation across the country and handled dozens of arbitrations and mediations. He has also appeared before the state, federal and appeals courts serving Arizona. In addition, both Matheson and Jackson have experience clerking in the federal court system. Matheson did her clerkship for now Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas and Jackson clerked for Judge William Canby on the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A Qualitative Difference Offers Multiple Benefits Being a smaller firm staffed with highly-experienced attorneys offers multiple benefits to clients. “Obviously, the overhead is lower in a small firm, which allows us to give the same quality service that we could in a larger environment, but at a lower rate for our clients. It also allows us to expand our practice areas so that we can service individuals and small organizations, which can be very difficult in a large firm,” Matheson says. Jackson says, “Qualitatively, there is a big difference. In a large firm you have to deal with a lot of office politics, billable hour requirements, sometimes different departments in the same firm competing with each other. The environment here is a Zen paradise compared to that environment.” Matheson adds, “You certainly have more control over your own destiny.” The company’s philosophy is “big firm experience with small firm price.” Their big company experience is particularly helpful when facing large firms as opposing counsel. Matheson and Matheson makes a commitment to each client to explore all avenues to determine the most cost-effective and best outcome for the specific client and situation. Although a mutually negotiated resolution is the preferred option, the firm has the personnel, experience, and resources to take matters to trial. Referring to cases opposed by larger firms, Jackson says, “We have worked in that environment, and that helps us to interact effectively.” Matheson and Jackson graduated in top 10 percent of law their school classes. In 1997, when Jackson graduated from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, the faculty selected him to receive the law school’s Armstrong Award, which is given each year to the most outstanding graduate. These scholastic achievements allowed them to become lawyers in large, prestigious law firms and to acquire that big firm and corporate legal experience. “We have the educational bandwidth that you would expect from a larger firm,” Jackson says. Advice and Counseling Matheson notes that providing advice and counsel is part of their job and “there’s a lot of hand holding that goes on.” Frequently, people facing employment situations arrive in a very emotional state. They are naturally nervous, frightened and uncertain about their future, and it is not uncommon for prospective clients to cry during office meetings. These raw emotions often also affect other members of the family, and it is common for friends or family members to attend the initial consultation with a prospective client. Rather than billing for these initial meetings by the hour as most firms do, Matheson and Jackson offer their consultations on a flat fee basis so that they can spend as much time as necessary with the individual and ensure that all questions have been answered. “When our client leaves a consultation, I believe they feel better because at least they understand what they’re facing, and have a much clearer picture of what their options are. Many people tell me that their consultation was time and money well spent, and I can see the improvement in their outlook. And that’s a good day,” Jackson says. People often arrive at an attorney’s door with serious misconceptions of the law and what the law can and cannot do. Matheson says, “The law does not get involved in workplace politics. We can’t necessarily remedy a situation in which the employee feels strongly that the boss is a jerk. We can only help with conditions that violate the law.” “Some employees believe that their employer is being unfair and that that ought to be illegal, but it’s not,” Jackson says. “Often the counseling part of the job requires pointing out that the best course of action is to let go of the issue and move on. I don’t file cases for people who say, ‘It’s not about the money. It’s about the principle’ because unfortunately, our system isn’t structured to reward principles,” Matheson says. She notes that an attorney may be able to resolve the situation so that the client gets some type of financial settlement, but the legal system often cannot fully right the wrong done to that client. “Someone who wants his or her ‘pound of flesh’ is headed for disappointment.” Jackson recently secured a settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which the client was dissatisfied with the results. “There was nothing that was going to erase the stress and upset that the client and her family experienced.” He notes that they were not dissatisfied with him or the firm, but with the limits on what the legal system could offer. “Managing client expectations about the monetary and other remedies and the rigors of the litigation process is an attorney’s responsibility.” Matheson sees her firm’s case load moving more into overtime and minimum wage cases, often representing multiple clients or in a class action context. “Now that the economy is bouncing back a bit employees are more willing to pursue claims against a current or former employer.” Matheson also noted that many employers are hiring again, “but they are often hiring people as contractors, which in theory eliminates costs for benefits and overtime, but in reality exposes those employers to potential wage and hour claims.” Jackson added that, “We also perceive a real need for smaller businesses to gain access to high-quality representation, but at a small-firm price. We plan to develop that niche as part of our practice.” Whatever the employment-law challenge, Matheson and Jackson, with big firm experience and small firm price, are ready to meet it.
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.