Don’t Move the Goalpost

As a young athlete, I remember the phrase, “Don’t move the goalpost.” 

The phrase is often used in sports to describe changing the criteria, or goal, while the game is still in progress. Outside of the sports arena, the phrase is commonly used as a metaphor when the goal is changed after someone has begun an act or process in an attempt to reach said goal. It may be perceived that a person is placed at an advantage or disadvantage when the goal is changed. Now as a lawyer, sometimes I find myself saying, “Don’t move the goalpost.”

As the client, you set the goals for your case. This is where you tell your attorney what your desired outcome is. If you don’t know what your options are, ask your attorney to walk through the potential outcomes. In many employment law cases, employees want a severance for lost wages, a neutral reference for prospective employers, a reasonable accommodation for a disability, or reinstatement of an old position. This is not an exhaustive list, but represents some of the common goals that clients desire. Be sure to sit down with your attorney to discuss all your options.

Once you know the goal, share it with your attorney and make sure that both of you understand it in the same way. It is now your attorney’s responsibility to determine the means for reaching your goals. Your attorney will likely discuss his/her strategy with you, but the attorney is ultimately the decision maker when it comes to strategy. With that being said, it is important that you retain an attorney that you trust because they play an important role in helping you reach your goals.

As an attorney, I expect there to be hurdles during my representation, and I expect that I may have to make slight changes to my strategy. When the client’s goal remains generally consistent, I am able to use all of my efforts to achieve the best outcome for my client. Conversely, when the goal constantly changes, it becomes difficult to achieve, as the desired end outcome is not the same. 

For example, if Client A is terminated from Employer A and wants reinstatement, the attorney is able to direct every effort towards getting Client A reinstated. This keeps the work focused and consistent in messaging with all involved parties. On the other hand, if Client B is terminated from Employer B and cannot decide what the goal is, it becomes difficult for the attorney to convey Client B’s goal to Employer B. For example, if Client B indicates their goal is reinstatement, the attorney notifies Employer B of Client B’s goal of reinstatement and the attorney makes progress on getting Client B reinstated. Then the next day, Client B says, “I changed my mind, I want a severance.” Now the attorney is forced to backtrack and work towards a severance. Employer B will immediately see that Client B does not know what he or she wants and may not see the attorney as being credible. This could be portrayed as disorganization or indecisiveness, and employers could then be unwilling to make efforts towards goals that keep changing. For this reason, it is crucial to speak with your attorney, discuss possible outcomes, and set your goal in order to best prepare a strategy for your case.

If you believe that you have been discriminated or retaliated against, please contact my office to schedule a consultation with a Dallas Employment Lawyer.

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