Whistleblower Legal Assistance FAQ

Learn how to obtain Legal Assistance from the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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Q: How does the Whistleblower Legal Assistance Program work?

A: Obtaining legal assistance from the NWLDEF starts with a whistleblower filling out a simple intake form . That intake form is personally reviewed by one of the NWLDF’s Trustees, all of whom are licensed attorneys in the District of Columbia and experts in whistleblower law. All information submitted is covered under the attorney-client privilege, and we will maintain confidentiality to fullest extent provided by law.

Once reviewed, the NWLDEF will take one of the following actions:

  • 1. Contact the whistleblower to obtain more information. This may be done by an attorney for the NWLDEF or by a private attorney who works with the NWLDEF. Regardless of who contacts the whistleblower, all of these communications are protected under the attorney client privilege.
  • 2. Provide the whistleblower with a copy of the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) Whistleblower Attorney Directory upon request.
  • 3. If it does not appear we or the lawyers listed in the NWC’s Whistleblower Attorney Directory can assist you, we will notify the you and provide other resources.
  • How long does it take for the NWLDEF to review an intake form and communicate a decision to a whistleblower?

    A: These decisions are generally made within 30 days. All communications are conducted over the phone or by email.

    Q: How do I get an attorney referral?

    A: With the whistleblower’s consent, you will be sent the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) Whistleblower Attorney Directory. It will be up to you to contact the attorneys in that directory and make arrangements for representation directly with these attorneys.

    Q: Does the NWLDEF provide legal advice?

    A: The administrative staff of the NWLDEF does not provide any legal advice. An attorney from the NWLDEF may directly contact you to confidentially discuss your case with you. Any information provided by this attorney is preliminary in nature and is part of the case evaluation process. Any advice provided this initial evaluation process is preliminary in nature and should not be relied upon in making decisions on your case.

    Legal advice is typically provided to a whistleblower entering into a formal representation agreement with an attorney, who may be associated with the NWLDEF. However, the NWLDEF does not provide any advice for which you should rely until a formal representation agreement is signed by you and the attorneys who will represent you. If no such written agreement is signed, the NWLDEF and/or any attorney associated with the NWLDEF, are not your attorneys.

    We strongly encourage you to continue your own efforts to  obtain information about your rights and obligations. Whistleblower law is complex and some people lose their case due to minor problems.

    Q: What is the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund?

    A: It is a non-governmental, non-profit legal organization that works closely with the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC). The NWLDEF and the NWC are separate organizations. The NWC is a non-profit educational and advocacy public interest group, while the NWLDEF is a not-for-profit legal services organization. The NWLDEF is controlled by licensed attorney-Trustees. The current Trustees are listed on this website.

    Q: Is there a fee?

    A: No. Potential clients do not pay any fee for having their intake form reviewed by an attorney or for any follow-up interviews you may participate in. This is a free public service provided by the NWLDEF. However, should you sign a representation agreement with an attorney, that attorney may require a portion of any recovery you earn to pay his/her attorney’s fee or charge you an hourly fee. The NWLDEF does not charge any hourly fee.

    Q: If I hire an attorney from the NWC’s Whistleblower Attorney Directory, does that attorney work for the NWLDEF or the NWC?

    A: No. The attorneys listed in the Directory are private and are not employed by the NWLDEF or the NWC. Private attorneys listed in the Directory will make a decision to represent you completely independent of any recommendation of the NWLDEF or the NWC. If you decide to contact an attorney listed in the Directory, negotiations for representation and fee arrangements are strictly between you and the attorney. The NWLDEF and NWC are not responsible for any part of the representation.

    If you hire an attorney from the Directory to represent you, the NWLDEF and NWC will have no further involvement with your case. Furthermore, it is up to you to independently evaluate the quality of any attorney/law firm you may hire, including any attorney who works with the NWLDEF. Neither the NWLDEF nor the NWC endorses any attorney/law firm. The NWLDEF’s Legal Assistance program is a pro bono public service.

    Q: Where can I obtain information about my rights as a whistleblower?

    A: The best resource on whistleblower law is Stephen M. Kohn's The New Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself.The Handbook is the first-ever consumer’s guide to whistleblowing and we strongly advise every whistleblower to obtain a handbook. In June 2017, a fully updated version was released. This updated edition includes seven new rules and a special anticorruption toolkit for whistleblowers and NGOs, as well as the latest developments on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, wildlife, tax, banking, ocean pollution, and other whistleblower reward laws. In addition, information about whistleblower rights can be found throughout the NWC site and on the Whistleblower Protection Blog.

    Q: What does it mean if I get a letter saying that my report is out of scope or program?

    A: This letter means that a NWLDEF attorney has reviewed your report and determined that we do not have an attorney in our network that is an adequate match for the contents of your report. This determination has no bearing whatsoever on the merits of your potential case.

    Q: Can I rely on the legal information published on the website or blog operated by the NWLDEF and the NWC?

    A: Yes and No. Although we try to keep the information published online as accurate as possible, laws vary from state to state, and the interpretations of federal and state law are subject to change. Only a lawyer with whom you enter into a written representation agreement can provide you with specific advice pertaining to your situation. By using this website (www.whistleblowers.org) you are agreeing that under no circumstances will the NWLDEF or NWC (or any employee or lawyer working for these organizations) be responsible for

  • (1) any information contained in or omitted from the website,
  • (2) any person’s reliance on any such information,
  • (3) whether or not the information is correct, current or complete and
  • (4) the consequences of any action you or any other person takes or fails to take, whether or not based on information provided by or as a result of the use of this site.
  • Q: Should I be concerned about confidentiality?

    The NWLDEF and any attorney working with the NWLDEF, will keep your information strictly confidential and privileged to the fullest extent permitted under law and will assert the attorney-client privilege should any person (other than yourself or your agent) request any information about you. However, the NWLDEF cannot guarantee the confidentiality of electronic communications. We urge you to never use any electronic device (mobile phone, laptop, desktop, etc.) that is owned or controlled by a private corporation or governmental entity. Furthermore, we recommend that you take steps to protect your online identity including establishing a separate email account that does not identify you by name and avoiding the use other online platforms that may disclose your identity.

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