This story accompanies The Best Defense, a feature about an exclusive list of the nation's most powerful employment attorneys, along with experts' tips for hiring your own.
In a country of 1.1 million lawyers, roughly 10 percent of whom have some involvement with labor and employment matters, how do you identify the cream of the crop?
That's the question Lawdragon has been answering in 100 practice fields since it was founded in 2005 to provide a "consumer reports" of lawyers and judges, says Katrina Dewey, CEO and publisher of the Los Angeles-based networking site for lawyers and clients. The journalists on our staff have been creating "best of" lists since 1990, she adds.
To identify the leading lawyers for labor and employment -- management-side -- for Human Resource Executive® magazine, Lawdragon first turned to its database of the more than 150,000 attorneys it has researched and vetted, and pulled those who specialize in representing corporations in labor matters (as opposed to those who specialize in suing corporations on behalf of aggrieved employees).
More than 20,000 lawyers nationwide were e-mailed to ensure the research was as inclusive as possible. Submissions were then collected from peers, clients, judges, marketing professionals and lawyers themselves, and Lawdragon set to work researching the resume and achievements of each attorney whose name was submitted, weighing him or her against one another as well as the opinion of clients.
For the HRE list, a few key achievements are virtually essential: An attorney has to be a law firm partner who has practiced for 20 years; in all likelihood, he or she chairs the firm's labor and employment group, or, at some juncture, did; most likely, he or she belongs to the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the most important member-only association for this practice specialty.
In addition, this type of attorney has headline clients who he or she is steering through the toughest issues facing employers: backdating, wage-and-hour, and class-actions for discrimination, among others.
In addition, for this exclusive HRE guide, Lawdragon included a handful of lawyers who specialize in employee benefits and other associated financial structuring due to the importance of executive compensation and the emergence of pension funds and other investment vehicles.
"While these are not the lawyers who traditionally populate the 'best of' employment lists, we assure you they play tremendously powerful roles in today's workplace," says Dewey.
"As we whittled away to the top 50 [displayed on pages 29 and 30], we conducted our most important acid test: We asked those lawyers who are the consensus top labor lawyers in the country -- and their counterparts in the plaintiff bar -- which lawyer they would turn to with an employment problem," she says.
"Second, we asked which of these lawyers they would be proud to be featured alongside in this list.
"That's a tough standard to meet -- like asking which car you'd trust to carry your family."