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AMA: Employment lawyers


Jaggers
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Most people around here know me, but I did 5 years at a big firm, followed by some in house experience doing labour, employment, human rights, health & safety, etc. Ask me anything and I'll try to answer.

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borisviandu
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Hi Jaggers,

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! As of now, labour and employment is the branch of law that attracts me the most and I have so many questions to ask.

  1. What does your work routine look like? How often do you go to court? How much time do you spend with clients? Do lawyers in your field mostly do litigation, arbitration, or something else?
  2. Are there any major differences between working for employers versus working for employees or unions? Do lawyers generally do a little bit of each or do they usually specialize in one type of clients?
  3. You mentioned working in a big firm; were you doing labour/employment in that firm as well? If so, how does it compare to working in-house?
  4. Are there any electives you would consider essential for someone who wants to pursue a labour/employment law career? Any extracurriculars?
  5. Finally (I think that's more than enough for now), what would you say is the best aspect of your job? On the other hand, are there any aspects that you dislike?

Ultimately, I know that I have yet to start law school and that my interests are likely to shift before I graduate. However, I'm still eager to learn as much as I can beforehand. Obviously, feel free to share as much/little as you're comfortable with.

Thanks again! 🙂

bv 

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On 11/25/2021 at 11:27 AM, borisviandu said:

Hi Jaggers,

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! As of now, labour and employment is the branch of law that attracts me the most and I have so many questions to ask.

  1. What does your work routine look like? How often do you go to court? How much time do you spend with clients? Do lawyers in your field mostly do litigation, arbitration, or something else?
  2. Are there any major differences between working for employers versus working for employees or unions? Do lawyers generally do a little bit of each or do they usually specialize in one type of clients?
  3. You mentioned working in a big firm; were you doing labour/employment in that firm as well? If so, how does it compare to working in-house?
  4. Are there any electives you would consider essential for someone who wants to pursue a labour/employment law career? Any extracurriculars?
  5. Finally (I think that's more than enough for now), what would you say is the best aspect of your job? On the other hand, are there any aspects that you dislike?

Ultimately, I know that I have yet to start law school and that my interests are likely to shift before I graduate. However, I'm still eager to learn as much as I can beforehand. Obviously, feel free to share as much/little as you're comfortable with.

Thanks again! 🙂

bv 

Sorry, I thought I had responded to this. I definitely typed out a response, but maybe never clicked submit and lost it in one of the endless restarts while upgrading my computer.

1. Right now, I never go to court or any sort of tribunal. I farm out everything that results in any form of litigation. In my last job I mostly did labour arbitrations - 50-60 a year - as well as unjust dismissal arbitrations and human rights hearings. It depends on your employer's model. There are some who let their lawyers do a lot of litigation, but in most cases you wouldn't do your own. I spend time with some business leaders, but our company is big enough that most things are funneled to me through HR rather than from the businesses directly.

2. I have only worked for employers. Most people pretty much specialize, although there are some small firms with small clients who do both. It's hard in the world of big companies and big unions because of conflicts (and just general views on employment law).

3. I did exclusively labour/employment (and human rights, which is a big part of that) at the firm. I did partner with the litigation people on some files, such as complex commercial disputes that involved equity-type employment arrangements, or injunctions or things like that.

4. Obviously any course that touches on labour/employment directly. Anything that deals with human rights. A negotiation seminar. Maybe advanced contracts, or remedies, things like that. Tax is very useful (tax is a huge driver in employment settlements because of the high rate of tax on income).

5. It is a very human area of law considering it is still essentially business law. You deal with all kinds of crazy situations, because anything you can imagine someone doing, someone is probably doing right now at work. And they will be caught eventually. It also isn't huge stress because you're not normally dealing with huge money issues. Some can be, if you're helping the business make a decision that will impact 50,000 employees. And there are occasional class actions. But the money that passes through the employment group in settlements is always dwarfed by the money passing through the general litigation group.

1 hour ago, Zarathustra said:

I heard it's fairly easy to go inhouse as an employment lawyer. Is this true from your experience?

I don't know if it's easier or harder than other exit opens from big firms. It was easy for me. My client just called me and asked if I was looking for a new job. I wasn't, but heard her out and took it anyways. For my current job I was basically headhunted by a company looking for my particular niche of expertise, which it was finding hard to find.

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borisviandu
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4 hours ago, Jaggers said:

Sorry, I thought I had responded to this.

Not a problem at all!

Thank you so much for the insight, I really appreciate it! 🙂

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Jaggers I am an associate with more than five years labour and employment experience and work at a big firm. Just wondering from a client service perspective what you look for in external counsel? 

My approach when working with an in-house lawyer experienced in the area is different than HR folks who may not be nuanced in the law because you would likely already know what the issues are and why I would be recommending a certain approach.

I find one of the things that clients appreciate is responsiveness. Usually in house counsel is reaching out because they don't have the time or resources for something and need it done ASAP. I focus on being able to either address it immediately myself or if I am in a hearing, connecting with another person at the firm who can take it on right away.

Edited by Dragon123
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Responsiveness is key, though I don't necessarily need *the answer* right away as long as I know when I'll get it. I don't often have things that are truly urgent, as long as I have enough information to manage expectations.

Obviously at this point I am fairly sophisticated and knowledgeable about the applicable law, so when I'm going to outside counsel I need someone who understands what exactly is the wrinkle that's causing me to need outside expertise, and how to creatively solve it. 

Most of the lawyers I hire now are either former mentors I used to work for at the firm, or former associates I used to work with. 

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