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What is a Class Action Attorney?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 May 2018
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A class action attorney is a lawyer who represents groups of plaintiffs in lawsuits. These attorneys handle lawsuits on behalf of multiple people, often representing hundreds or even thousands of people at one time. While only one or a couple of these people may be actively involved in starting the lawsuit, a class action lawsuit may benefit numerous people who have a complaint or problem in common, even if they never see or speak to the lawyer who represents them. Often, these lawsuits are filed to sue major corporations or government agencies against whom it may be harder to win as a sole plaintiff.

Often, a class action attorney works to secure not only monetary benefits for his clients, but also to seek changes in unfair practices. For example, an individual may have a complaint against a financial institution for charging unfair fees. If he sued only on his own behalf, he may have a difficult time demonstrating that the financial institution was wrong, recouping his money, and convincing the company to change its practices, especially if the fees only amounted to a small amount of money. If the suit, however, involves hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, this could translate into a lawsuit worth millions of dollars. In such a case, the defendant company may not only pay the people involved in the class action suit, but also feel compelled to stop its unfair practices to avoid future lawsuits and bad publicity.

In many cases, a class action attorney initiates a lawsuit, but doesn’t have to wait for a judge to decide the case. Often, defendants in these cases feel there is a good deal of financial risk in waiting for a judge to decide the case and possibly award the plaintiffs money. Instead, these companies often offer to settle the cases, agreeing to pay those included in the class action suit or offering other concessions.

Class action attorneys often earn large fees by representing people in class action lawsuits. A class action attorney may also benefit from taking on one case that gives him the potential to earn large sums of money rather than having to juggle many small cases to earn the same total fee. The downside for a class action attorney, however, is the length of time he may have to work on a case before learning a judge’s decision or receiving an acceptable settlement offer. Sometimes class action lawsuits linger for years. Likewise, class action plaintiffs may lose their case, leaving the attorney without payment or with less payment than is desired.

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