The Myth of the Accurate Online Severance Calculator

Most law firms try to stand out from the crowd.  One strategy (which we suggest in this article is highly problematic) is implementing so-called “entitlement calculators.” We have no knowledge of the methodology any of these calculators use, but it is our impression that many of them improperly inflate the expectations of potential new clients.

There is a lot of nuance involved in calculating the value of a claim, and even more nuance associated with hatching a strategy tailored to the outcome a client desires.  Sadly, these calculators often provide a high (or even inflated) estimate without addressing any of this nuance.  More often than not, the number is dead wrong, but more importantly the number does not tell a client what to do. This can be particularly important for someone who just lost their job, and for whom the bills do not stop mounting.

This mismanagement of a terminated employee’s expectations can lead to an employee with an average claim believing they are entitled to far more than they truly are, or worse, leading an employee with a good claim to not pursue it, because they believe that it is not worthwhile. In both situations, a terminated employee is left disappointed.

This disappointment is easily avoidable through clear communication.

Our goal, as lawyers, is to get our client the best result, in the shortest amount of time, and all without putting further pressure on our clients in the form of large legal bills. As in all professional relationships, we make sure that our goals are aligned with our clients by having a conversation about realistic results, a realistic timeline, and realistic costs at the outset.

These honest conversations may not be as entertaining as the idea of a windfall or exciting as salaciously high numbers, but they allow our clients to plan effectively for their future. After all, the only thing better than dreaming of a fortune is actually receiving a well-reasoned in-pocket settlement.

So, if you or anyone you know happen to be considering choosing a lawyer based on a number spat out of an algorithm, we encourage you to:

  1. Ask the firm whose calculator was used to guarantee the result in writing (they won’t); and
  2. Call us to speak to a human about what to do.

Sparing any suspense, we are unlikely to promise you the number the calculator suggests.  But unlike the calculator, we can get you to the result, as opposed to simply telling you the largest number we can imagine.

Martin Sheard assisted me, and his work was first-rate. He was knowledgeable, efficient, and made me absolutely confident that I had received exactly the legal services I needed.
— Joe Broadhurst / Managing Partner, Broadhurst Kooy Family Law

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Martin Sheard has advocated at the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of financially marginalized Canadians. Only about once every two years does the Supreme Court of Canada hear an employment law case, so this was a special moment for Martin.