Featured Attorney: Audrey Schechter
Firm: Schechter Legal Group
Location: Clearwater, Florida
Practice Areas: Whistleblowers, False Claims Act (Qui Tam) Lawsuits, Healthcare Fraud, Retaliation
Schechter discovered LawLytics on a recommendation from a marketing consultant. But, before that, she had been operating a website built on a DIY platform. She says that she was attracted to the LawLytics system primarily “because of the lawyer-focused component.”
Attorney Audrey Schechter in the Spotlight
Florida-based False Claims Act (qui tam) attorney Audrey Schechter knew early in her life that she was going to be a lawyer.
Around age 12, Schechter recognized that her greatest strengths were in the humanities, and she says that she saw a career in law as her opportunity to “make an impact and to help create a just world.”
Aside from the general pursuit of justice, Schechter says that she’s always been attracted to legal quandaries as exercises in intellect. “I like exercising my brain,” she explains. “I like thinking through fact patterns, coming up with good approaches to cases, and I like that not everybody can do that.”
It is this combination of her passions for justice and intellectual challenge that led Schechter to eventually carve out her niche in the highly complex world of whistleblower and False Claims Act (qui tam) law.
Focusing on the Tough Cases
Schechter attended the Boston University School of Law, where she says she gravitated toward courses in constitutional and criminal law. After she graduated, Schechter found work with a firm in Florida that focused its attention on complex commercial litigation such as multi-party business separations, patent and trademark infringement, construction litigation, and workplace issues including harassment and fostering a hostile work environment.
She stayed with that firm for nearly eight years and then began taking increasingly more contract work outside of the office after her children were born.
“The attorneys at that firm were very highly regarded, smart lawyers and they taught me well,” Schechter says. “And then my life changed.”
She continued working as a contract lawyer for a number of years in various areas of the litigation world until her former law school roommate pulled her in on her first False Claims Act (qui tam) case about seven ago.
Schechter’s friend and fellow attorney, Andrea Fischer, was working on a health care fraud case in Florida, where she needed local counsel. Schechter agreed to take on the case and worked with Fischer’s former firm. That firm eventually dissolved, but Schechter and Fischer continue to work together at The Schechter Law Group.
She says that the formation of that partnership came at the perfect time and that her transition to a focus on Medicare fraud cases involving whistleblowers felt serendipitous.
“I really think I’m doing the right work for me,” she says. “I genuinely feel that way.”
Fighting to Right a Wrong
False Claims Act (qui tam) cases, Schechter says, require a drawn-out and delicate dance through a series of procedural hoops in order to bring about a conclusion that is favorable to whistleblower clients.
“Law under the False Claims Act (FCA) is extremely technical as far as procedure is concerned,” Schechter says. “If you make even a single simple mistake — fail to file something properly, serve something the wrong way, break the seal — you can mess up the whole case.”
Not only that, but whistleblower cases tend to take an incredibly long time to reach a settlement or verdict as a result of investigations by government agencies which can take years.
Then there are the concerns about client safety and security. If an individual or business has made a substantial amount of money by defrauding the government and they have managed to do so undetected, when authorities are made aware of the transgression there is always the chance that the individuals under investigation could get upset or seek to retaliate.
For this reason, Schechter says that individuals who hope to take action under the FCA need to be sure that the attorney they hire is knowledgeable and experienced. Though Schechter says that she knows of other lawyers who claim to take qui tam cases, she says that few are well-versed enough in the process to be relied upon to actually handle a whistleblower case from start to finish.
Schechter points out that whistleblowers put quite a bit on the line when they decide to take action on a potential FCA case. Often times, they still work for the employer they’re bringing a case against. Other times, they risk being blackballed from their industry of employment. A whistleblower may be putting their safety — and that of their families — at risk. This, she explains, is why False Claims Act (qui tam) cases are incentivized with a potential payout of between fifteen and thirty percent of the total awarded in a final settlement.
“It’s just a very brave thing that these folks do to come forward and I respect them immensely,” Schechter says. And it’s thanks to these whistleblowers (who account for about seventy percent of all governmental FCA actions) that government agencies across the United States have managed to reclaim literally billions of dollars in previously misappropriated funds.
“We’re doing good work,” Schechter says, “and it feels good to know that.”
A Web Presence that Attracts Clients
Schechter discovered LawLytics on a recommendation from a marketing consultant. But, before that, she had been operating a website built on a DIY platform.
Schechter says that she was attracted to the LawLytics system primarily “because of the lawyer-focused component.”
Working in a practice area that requires meticulous attention to detail, Schechter says that she needed to make sure that all of the marketing material she was putting out into the world “was legally sound and that it didn’t violate any bar rules.”
Beyond that, she points out that it’s “definitely helpful to work with people who understand the law and how it works” when it comes to creating an online marketing strategy for her firm.
Schechter points out that many of her potential clients aren’t even aware that they have the option to pursue a False Claims Act (qui tam) action under the FCA. This provides her with a terrific opportunity to educate her potential clients by capitalizing on relevant long tail search phrases asked by those potential clients in search engines when seeking advice about how to report potential fraud by their employers.
“A lot of people have no idea that the False Claims Act protection is out there to counter fraud and so I try to educate people about it as much as I can,” she says.
Today, Schechter says that she gets some of her clients as a result of referrals from other attorneys, but that the majority come to her after finding her website through organic searches.