First, a little background: 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 retain an attorney to handle the defense of his contractor’s license before the State Contractors Licensing Board (“CSLB”) has a much more difficult task: few members of the public, including the broadest network of contractor connections, you will meet a licensed and experienced enough licensed attorney to recommend. However, the stakes in a contractor licensing law matter can be surprisingly high, much higher than what is generally at stake in a misdemeanor criminal trial or routine business dispute that matures into a civil litigation.
The critical degree of risk in a contractor license case is obvious: the contractor has spent a lot of time on a highly specialized and expensive educational and / or apprenticeship program. He has studied for months and has undergone a difficult and expensive exam. Then several years have gone into the steep learning curve and a lot of expense has been invested in developing a viable recruiting business. For the contractor suddenly faced with 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 is contractable. For the individual business owner, the loss of the license means closing the business, losing all income from the business, while still being obligated to cover many of the ongoing expenses incurred for the purpose of doing business. There are few civil lawsuits in which total income and ability to earn a living are at stake. By this standard, then, the licensing law is high-risk territory. Yet even so, it is practiced out of the public eye and few who need “the best” licensing attorney have a clue how to find even a competent one. This article is offered to meet that need.
Why a to-do list?
To-do lists. All contractors use them. It is the document used in the construction trades to organize the successful completion of a construction project. Here a contractor’s “Checklist” is established for successfully organizing a licensing matter. The established criteria are task-oriented, which means this is a checklist of what a qualified licensing attorney should do. It is not an inventory of necessary personal characteristics or qualities. A fine mind, broad similar specific experience, diligent work habits, impeccable honesty, and strong communication skills are essential, without a doubt. But you don’t need to write a checklist for those attributes; you can let everyone know that these qualities are essential. Instead, this checklist sets 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 “checklist” for legal services that will always position the client’s case for the best possible outcome. So, in addition to the special requirements of your unique licensing problem, here is what your potential licensing attorney should propose to do in your case:
The checklist for effective representation of the contractor licensing law:
1. Early, Complete and Comprehensive Fact Collection:
- Issue formal lawsuits that require the CSLB to share ALL of the investigation package and ALL of the evidence that the agency intends to use against you.
- Cite all witness statements, photographs, agency records, and other material that the CSLB relies on for its allegations or decisions against you.
2. Early and periodic intervention to reduce the case:
- Immediately intervene with the CSLB investigator and other officials to persuade the agency not to move forward, or to move forward with a less serious set of allegations and a proposed sanction.
3. Regular and ongoing qualified negotiations with representatives of the Board, including the Attorney General or CSLB Advisor, and an Administrative Law Judge who acts as a Settlement Officer, to reduce the allegations and the proposed sanction.
- 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 examination and cross-examination of all witnesses who support your position.
- Prepare to cross-examine all witnesses who oppose you.
- Create diagrams, videos, maps, photo journals, reference books, and other exhibits that support your case.
- Prepare, present and argue legal motions that may limit the CSLB’s ability under the law to discipline you, or may keep out material evidence that is unfavorable to you
5. Presenting your case at the hearing:
- Object to the admissibility of unreliable evidence against you.
- Offer all supporting evidence as proof.
- Examine and question all witnesses.
- Argue the case and file a full post-hearing brief applying the law to the evidence admitted at the hearing.
6. Completion of any applicable post-hearing process:
- File formal written objections to a proposed unfavorable Decision and argue a request for reconsideration of any unfavorable decision.
- Appear before the State Board of Contractors Licensing to argue for or against the proposed Decision.
- Keep your rights to file an expedited proceeding challenging an unfavorable agency decision in civil court.
- Preserve the integrity, accuracy, and integrity of the administrative record in the event that a challenge in court is necessary.
That’s! That’s the checklist for qualified representation in a hiring licensing matter. When you go for your free consultation, these are the tasks to listen to when the attorney outlines his plan for your case. If all the attorney talks about is hearings, or negotiations, or any other limited part of a contractor’s license case, be careful and move on. If the Proposed Service Agreement or Retention Agreement does not detail the entire checklist, you should speak further or speak with other attorneys before signing and submitting 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 licensing dispute in which your professional identity and your ability to earn a living are at stake can be the most important, costly and emotionally challenging legal battle you have ever experienced in your life. Don’t go through it alone; do not pass it on to anyone who is less skilled, less capable, or less willing than you need and deserves to protect your right to your occupation.