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How We Choose

This article accompanies The Slippery Slope of Social.

Friday, July 1, 2016
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This is the ninth edition of the "Nation's Most Powerful Employment Attorneys," a joint project produced by Human Resource Executive® and Lawdragon, a media company that has been issuing "best of" lawyer lists since 1989.

When we created this guide in 2007, it honored the nation's top 50 corporate employment attorneys. We now recognize 210 employment lawyers who stand out for their ability to guide employers through the constantly evolving laws governing the workplace. In this issue, we honor 100 leading corporate-side lawyers; 20 specialists apiece in immigration, traditional labor law, and employee benefits and ERISA; and 40 Up-and-Comers.

That latter group serves as one of the most exciting features of these lists, with more than 25 lawyers moving from our "farm team" to the Major League over the years. This year, three standout employment lawyers -- Lorie Almon of Seyfarth, Dawn Siler-Nixon of Ford Harrison and Jennifer Keller of Baker Donelson, who also became president and COO of her firm -- moved from Up-and-Comers to the Top 100. Joining them are Robert Newman of Covington, who was recognized in the ERISA Top 20, and Michael Lebowich of Proskauer, who was recognized in the traditional labor and employment's top 20.

Another special facet of this guide is the HRE/Lawdragon Hall of Fame, now in its fourth year. It features legends of the employment bar whose contributions to the field as well as their firms are unparalleled. Very few lawyers are considered for Hall of Fame status -- which begins with 35 years in the employment-law trenches and requires consistent recognition for all-around excellence in counseling clients, contributing to the bar and serving as a visionary to improve workplaces. Up to 10 lawyers are added to the Hall of Fame each year and retired from future consideration for other lists; their achievements are perpetually recognized on HREOnline™ at http://bit.ly/283iMcV and on Lawdragon's website at http://bit.ly/1Y2Elpu.

Each of these lists is intended to offer corporate counsel and human resource professionals an unsurpassed guide to the best lawyers to help them resolve difficult employment situations and keep them in compliance with the country's increasingly complicated and changing workplace-related laws and regulations. The process pairs online balloting and submissions with rigorous vetting, as well as editorial and peer review. In December, HRE's 75,000-plus subscribers and Lawdragon's 500,000 database members were invited to submit nominations for the guide. Nomination forms were also posted on both websites and attorneys who came in through this process are included on these lists. Three months and thousands of submissions later, the vetting began -- first by Lawdragon's research team and then through each nominee's clients and peers.

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To make the cut on the general and specialty lists, a lawyer typically has practiced more than 20 years and amassed a list of remarkable accomplishments -- defending and counselling companies in the day's most critical matters, advising them on hiring and retaining the best employees from around the world, and continuing to unravel the ever-evolving world of employee benefits. A recognized attorney has also generally chaired his or her firm's employment department and often has been selected to lead his or her state or national employment-bar organization. The criteria for Up-and-Comers are similar, though ratcheted back a bit to account for their 20 or fewer years in practice. All have received glowing recommendations from corporate counsel who have reaped the benefits of their wisdom; in every case, their clients would hire these lawyers when next they are tested.

The lawyers included on the HRE/Lawdragon lists are also vetted for integrity. Bar records are checked, and peers and counsel are questioned about their integrity beyond a lawyer's technical and tactical skill. It's important that those who make the cut admire -- even if they don't always agree with -- their colleagues on these lists.

Lastly, an editorial advisory board comprised of a who's who of the nation's corporate employment bar vets the finalists. They discuss their own experiences with the attorneys under consideration and follow the trail to the clients, judges and opposing counsel who can offer first-hand experiences with these lawyers. Only those who earn glowing marks from clients, peers, colleagues and judges make the cut.

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