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CAI Files Suit for the Right to Offer Legal Services to Members

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CAI filed suit on January 23, 2015, to overturn a state law that currently prevents us from directly staffing and providing legal advice and services to member companies.* We believe this state law is unconstitutional because it prevents free speech and free association by our members, and by our staff lawyers on their behalf.

We want to thank our members who helped us with our legislative efforts to change the law and with the filing of this suit.

Update June 21, 2017

Lawsuit Pending: Pre-Paid Legal Services Plan* Introduced

CAI’s lawsuit to change state law (above) is still pending. Our Motion for Summary Judgement was May 2017. Essentially, it argues the U.S. Constitution renders our restrictive state law unconstitutional and void. The defendants filed their own summary judgement motion supporting current state law. The court may set a hearing date, or, may decide the motions on briefs alone. In our view, this case presents legal questions for the court, not fact-based inquiries. Litigation is expensive and slow, but given our experience in the General Assembly, it is the only path to providing members direct legal services through CAI’s own licensed attorneys.

In the meantime, due to the time required by litigation, we created a CAI Pre-Paid Legal Services Plan (CAI PPLSP) for our members. CAI members will now receive employment law advice from experienced attorneys serving our Pre-Paid Legal Services Plan as part of your CAI membership dues. Services are provided by independent, local, licensed NC attorneys assigned to serve CAI members in an open-ended, no-extra-fee environment.*

CAI already provides members unlimited consultation with our HR professionals. These Plan attorneys add telephone-based legal advice in a very similar format. They will also use legal templates to help you resolve employment law matters such as separation and release agreements. They will help you understand claims and charges filed against you, and your options. They will give opinions on employee handbook provisions. Their advice is limited to North Carolina and federal employment law matters.

To access the CAI PPLSP, and speak with the third-party firm’s attorney located in the CAI Raleigh office, just ask an Advice and Resolution team member to transfer your call. The Plan has already served dozens of members with timely, immediate responses to urgent needs for essential legal advice.

Full details of this new member benefit are provided at www.capital.org/pplsp

*These new services are valuable and at no extra cost to you. But there are limitations to the CAI PPLSP concept. One limitation is these attorneys are not members of the CAI staff. Therefore, the cost for CAI to provide legal services with third-party lawyers at-the-ready for your needs, is much higher than in a staffed model. Also, any fee-based project work these attorneys provide at your request (like handling an EEOC charge response) will be billed by that law firm and CAI cannot be involved.

Why does CAI want to provide legal services to its members?

  • Our members ask us about 9,000 workplace-related questions each year.
  • Question volume is increasing because of our “law thick” regulatory environment.
  • Some of these member questions require legal advice to reach a full resolution. CAI now refers members to outside lawyers at their hourly rates.
  • Too many members act without advice, or self-serve their own legal needs, rather than wait for or pay an attorney. This gap in service on basic legal matters serves no one well.
  • Our goal is lower cost and better access to quality workplace legal services.

How will CAI provide legal services?

  • CAI has two licensed lawyers on staff now. We will hire more North Carolina attorneys with experience who prefer to work in an open-ended, members-first model.
  • CAI will provide telephone and consultative legal services to members for no additional fee. The dues revenue from new member attraction will finance the cost of more legal staff.
  • We will transparently describe how and when a member’s legal issue becomes too time intensive and requires additional work at below-market rates, or, referral to outside counsel.
  • We will have systems to ensure confidentiality, maintain the attorney/client privilege, avoid conflicts of interest, comply with all rules and properly notify members of their options.
  • We will carry malpractice insurance just as we do today for professional errors/omissions.

What legal services will CAI provide?

  • CAI will help members with their most common workplace law issues such as assessing risks, drafting termination agreements, answering EEOC charges and interpreting unclear regulations.
  • CAI’s lawyers will actively educate members on legal topics and problem prevention.
  • CAI does not plan to represent member clients in litigation matters or extremely specialized areas of workplace law. We expect to be an even more active referral partner to trusted outside law firms on these matters.

CAI believes we can provide a much needed service to North Carolina employers at a low cost through our membership association. It has worked well in other states. It will work well here.

Contact Bruce Clarke, JD, CAI’s CEO, with any questions at 919-713-5243.

*Capital Associated Industries, Inc. v. Roy Cooper, et al., Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-83, USDC, Middle District of NC. Our Board of Directors voted to file this lawsuit after several years of working to change the law legislatively and after discussions with lawmakers, lawyer groups and the NC State Bar. We believe that most lawyers will support our purpose, but acknowledge some are concerned about perceived competition from nonprofit corporations if the law is changed.