The new cachet of labour and employment practice

June Lexpert CoverLabour and employment is by no means a new practice area, but it has evolved in such a way that there appears to be a new found interest in the area.

How else could one explain the fact that the respected labour and employment boutique Spectrum HR Law LLP has disbanded and all its lawyers but one dispersed to national, multinational or large regional firms.

In our recent cover story, Lexpert writer Julius Melnitzer looks at the reasons why labour and employment practice is getting more attention from the large law firms, and why the employment boutiques, or what are often dubbed “workplace law” boutiques, are doing so well:

…make no mistake about it: whatever you may call it, workplace law embraces some very lucrative and high-stakes financial and reputational mandates involving matters ranging from the defence of class actions, pension disputes and systemic human-rights abuses to navigating the vagaries of provincial successorship legislation attendant on a merger or acquisition. “Because labour and employment law is cutting edge in so many areas, it has become an important stand-alone practice for many firms, and there’s a growing emphasis on building these practices,” [Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Morton] Mitchnick says.

In other words, workplace law expertise has become an important arrow in the client-development quiver. “We like to think that we have about 100 lawyers doing full-time human-rights, labour law, employment law, and pension law work,” says Brian Smeenk in Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s Toronto office.

Indeed, some major firms have come to see the field’s ever expanding tentacles as a causeway to relationships that will attract the M&A and transactional prizes they so cherish. “Law firms are starting to realize that an employment and labour practice is a great entry point to the firm for new clients,” says Richard Nixon in Davis LLP’s Toronto office. “The first contact with offshore clients, for example, is frequently with regard to an employment matter.”

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