Practice Area Insights: A Look Into Labor & Employment
Attorneys in this area serve as advisors and represent companies and individuals arising out of labor and employment disputes. The “labor” side deals with union issues, advising companies on avoiding unionization of their workers, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, administering labor contracts, and litigating issues arising from union issues, including cases alleging unfair labor practice charges. On the employment side, attorneys advise companies on day-to-day employment issues, draft policies and procedures, develop and sometimes conduct trainings, draft employment and separation agreements, and litigate cases dealing with employment issues—including charges of discrimination before the EEOC or similar state agency or via individual suits. L&E law relies heavily on state law, so many firms in this area are local, but there are—of course—larger firms who focus on this area. L&E attorneys are well situated to go in-house because every company, no matter the industry, deals with labor and/or employment issues and nearly every in-house department includes one or more attorneys who have practiced in this area.
In our guide, Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, attorneys from law firms with top-ranked Labor & Employment practices share insights about their practice, including what the practice area is and entails as well as what the typical day in the practice area is like. Keep reading for their insights!
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Alexandra Stathopoulos, Partner—Orrick: I defend employers in class, collective, and representative actions that can involve hundreds or even thousands of putative class members. I also handle high-stakes, single-plaintiff claims of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. One of my favorite aspects of this practice is strategizing with employers on how to comply with the varied and ever-changing employment laws, including implementing policies and advising on personnel matters to avoid litigation.
Lisa Harris, Partner—Sheppard Mullin: My practice primarily consists of advice and counseling and compliance. I advise employers on all employee-related matters from hiring to termination. I also conduct investigations and advise on remedial actions, where appropriate. My goal is to help employers create a fair and equitable workplace, where employees can grow and do their best work. This helps minimize litigation and promotes engagement and productivity. To that end, I train HR professionals on the law and how to conduct investigations, I train managers on how to effectively manage and support employees, and I train employees on what is and is not appropriate in the workplace through harassment prevention and respect in the workplace training. I also conduct wage and hour audits. On the traditional labor side, I advise employers on compliance with the National Labor Relations Act and I represent them in contract negotiations and labor arbitrations. Finally, I advise and train on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Alexandra Stathopoulos: There really isn’t a typical day—some days I might spend the whole day taking a deposition, prepping a witness to testify, conducting a fact investigation or interviewing witnesses, negotiating a settlement at mediation, or appearing at court for a hearing. A day in the office might consist of a few hours of email; a couple of hours reviewing the work of associates on my team and strategizing about our cases; one or two calls with clients to provide counseling and advice on employment issues; calls with opposing counsel to meet and confer over various litigation issues; and (if I’m lucky) a few hours of focused work on briefs, preparing for a deposition or strategizing about substantive discovery responses.
Denise Giraudo, Partner—Sheppard Mullin: As a labor and employment attorney, no day is ever the same because, inevitably, a client has an emergency or an urgent question. But, typically, I work on various stages of my litigation and also advise clients on questions they may have about particular employee situations.