First, a little information: When it comes to contract litigation and collection work, there are many sources of good information for the contractor who needs to hire an attorney. However, a contractor who needs to hire an attorney to handle the defense of his contractor’s license before the Contractors State Licensing Board (“CSLB”) has a much more difficult task: few members of the public, including the broader network of contractor connections, you will meet a licensing attorney skilled and experienced enough to recommend. However, the stakes in a contractor’s license law matter can be surprisingly high, much higher than is usually at stake in a misdemeanor criminal trial or a routine business dispute that escalates into a dispute. civil litigation.
The critical degree of risk in the case of a licensing contractor is obvious: the contractor has spent significant time in a highly specialized and expensive educational and/or apprenticeship program. He or she has studied for months and has taken a difficult and expensive exam. Then it takes several years of climbing the steep learning curve and a lot of expense to develop a viable recruiting business. For the contractor suddenly facing license revocation, the loss of the license is the loss of their job and the loss of their means of earning a living, possibly the only means for which the individual contractor is qualified or able. get hired. For an individual business owner, loss of license means going out of business, losing all business income, while still being obligated to pay many of the ongoing expenses incurred in order to do business. There are few civil lawsuits where your entire income and ability to earn a living hang in the balance. By this standard, then, licensing law is the ultimate high-risk territory. Still, however, it is practiced out of the public eye and few who need “the best” licensing attorney have any idea how to find even a competent one. This article is offered to fill that need.
Why a hit list?
Hit lists. All contractors use them. It is the document used in the building trades to organize the successful completion of a construction project. Here is a contractor’s “Checklist” for successfully organizing a license issue. The established criteria are task oriented, which means this is a checklist of what a skilled licensing attorney should do. It is not an inventory of necessary personal characteristics or qualities. A brilliant mind, extensive similar specific experience, diligent work habits, impeccable honesty, and strong communication skills are critical, no doubt. But there’s no need to write a checklist for those attributes: you can let everyone know that those qualities are essential. Instead, this checklist lays out what you need your licensing attorney to do in your case. Of course, each case is different in its facts and circumstances, and each case presents issues that require particular decisions and actions by the contractor’s attorney. But based on more than 30 years of extensive experience, there is indeed an identifiable “hit list” for legal services that will always position a client’s case for the best possible outcome. So, in addition to the special requirements of your unique licensing law problem, here’s what your potential licensing attorney should propose to do in your case:
The Checklist for Effective Contractor Licensing Law Representation:
1. Early, complete and exhaustive data collection:
- Issue formal legal demands forcing CSLB to share the ENTIRE investigative package and ALL evidence the agency intends to use against you.
- Cite all witness statements, photographs, agency records, and other material that CSLB relies on in its allegations or decisions against you.
2. Early and regular intervention to reduce the case:
- Intervene immediately with the CSLB investigator and other officials to persuade the agency not to proceed, or to proceed with a less serious set of allegations and the proposed sanction.
3. Regular and ongoing skillful negotiations with Board representatives, including the Attorney General or CSLB Counsel, and an Administrative Law Judge serving as Settlement Officer, to reduce the allegations and the proposed penalty.
- Presentation of alternative proposals for the discipline of the license, or specific conditions of the case for the issuance of the license.
4. Professional preparation of your case:
- Identify, find, and prepare for direct and cross-examination all witnesses who support your position.
- Prepare for cross-examination of all witnesses who oppose you.
- Create diagrams, videos, maps, photo journals, bank books, and other exhibits that support your case.
- Prepare, file, and argue legal motions that may limit CSLB’s ability under law to discipline you, or may exclude evidence material that is unfavorable to you.
5. Presentation of your case at hearing:
- Challenge the admissibility of unreliable evidence against you.
- Offer as evidence all supporting documents.
- Examine and cross-examine all witnesses.
- Argue the case and present a complete post-hearing brief applying the law to the evidence admitted at the hearing.
6. Completion of any applicable post-hearing process:
- Submit formal written objections to a proposed Unfavorable Decision and argue a request for reconsideration of any unfavorable decision.
- Appear before the State Contractor’s Licensing Board to argue for or against the Proposed Decision.
- Preserve your rights to file an expedited judicial remedy challenging an unfavorable agency decision in civil court.
- Preserve the integrity, accuracy and exhaustiveness of the administrative file in case a challenge is necessary in court.
That’s it! That is the checklist for qualified representation in a contract licensing matter. When you go in for your free consultation, these are the tasks you should listen to as the attorney outlines his or her plan for your case. If all the attorney’s talk is about hearings, or negotiations, or any other limited portion of a contractor’s license case, be careful and move on. If the Proposed Service Agreement or Retainer Agreement does not detail the full checklist, you should talk more or talk to other attorneys before you sign and deliver a check.
When your livelihood or business is at stake, you need an attorney who can do the right thing for you in all aspects of your fight. A license dispute in which your professional identity and ability to earn a living are at stake can be the most significant, expensive and emotionally challenging legal battle you will ever have in your life. Don’t go through this alone; don’t go through this with anyone who is less skilled, less capable or less willing than you need and deserve to protect your right to your occupation.