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Labor & Employment

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Career Development Office Faculty


Discover

Work is essential to every organization of a governmental, social, educational, political, or charitable nature, every business enterprise, and nearly every individual and family. Consequently, labor and employment law has an impact that is broad, continuous, and profound. This legal discipline is not only national, but increasingly international, in scope. The rapid evolution of technologies, economic and political conditions, social customs, and the needs and aspirations of employees demands frequent adaptation of labor and employment law to changing circumstances and regularly puts labor and employment (“L&E”) lawyers at the cutting edge of important legal and social controversies.

L&E practitioners are called upon to use their knowledge and skills in an extremely wide variety of professional contexts. Among them are:

  • L&E departments of large global law firms and corporations;
  • Small and medium-sized law firms that advise employees, unions, independent contractors, and entrepreneurs on legal compliance and represent them in contract negotiations and civil litigations;
  • Legislative bodies and regulatory agencies, at every level of federal, state, and local government, that make policy, handle enforcement, and adjudicate claims under a myriad of labor and employment laws;
  • Unions and professional associations that represent the interests of their members in negotiation, litigation, and lobbying with respect to workplace issues;
  • An almost infinite variety of for-profit businesses and non-profit entities that engage L&E lawyers to serve in-house as executives, counsel, and consultants in the management of the enterprise, from investment and financial services companies, manufacturers, retailers, and emerging technology companies to sports teams, arts organizations, schools, hospitals, utilities, public benefit corporations, and universities;
  • Non-governmental organizations and associations that conduct issue advocacy concerning workers’ rights, civil rights, union rights, wages, health and safety, immigration, human trafficking, the gig economy, and the interests of the business community; and
  • As trial lawyers representing employees, employers, unions, or government agencies before courts, arbitrators, and administrative tribunals.

Labor Law

This branch of the L&E field is commonly understood to encompass the law governing the right of employees to engage in collective action and form unions, the privileges and obligations of unions when representing employees in dealings with their employers, and the rights and responsibilities of employees, unions, and employers in their relations with each other and the government agencies that regulate the workplace. Labor lawyers typically advise parties during union organizing campaigns and elections, negotiate collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers, handle legal issues associated with strikes, lockouts, picketing, and boycotts, represent parties in arbitrations over contract disputes, appear in proceedings before administrative agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor, and litigate claims filed in court under various labor laws. The National Labor Relations Act is the federal statute that forms the primary basis for regulating the relationship between employees, unions, and employers in the private sector. State and local laws create a parallel regulatory scheme for employees, unions, and employers in public sector workplaces, including public schools, public hospitals, public transportation systems, government agencies, and other public, tax-payer supported entities.

Employment Law

Employment law, on the other hand, typically encompasses the law governing the individual rights and responsibilities of applicants and employees in the workplace and the duties of employers with respect to their employees’ individual terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, hours, health, safety, privacy, pensions, and time off from work. The principal body of law governing individual workplace rights is found in the numerous federal, state, and local laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Another important and detailed body of law comprises the federal, state and local regulations governing hours of work and compensation, including minimum wage rates, overtime pay, deductions from pay, the form, timing, and manner of delivering pay, eligibility for and forfeiture of vacation, sick and other paid time off, and the right to layoff pay. Other legal rights encompassed within the broad and ever-expanding category of “employment law” are too numerous and varied to be sub-classified, and include not only statutory rights under such laws as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but also common law rights arising out of the availability of causes of action for breach of employment contract, defamation, breach of a duty to preserve trade secrets, and breach of non-disclosure, non-competition, and non-solicitation covenants.

Employment lawyers representing employer clients, whether as in-house counsel or as the member of a law firm (usually referred to as “management-side” lawyers), play an essential role in advising employers regarding compliance with the many employment laws under which employers operate. They draft policies and procedures to ensure compliance with those laws; they evaluate the risk of lawsuits or adverse administrative agency determinations associated with a proposed policy change, disciplinary action, discharge, restructuring or layoff; and they draft offer letters and negotiate employment or severance contracts that seek to achieve the employer’s business objectives while complying with the employer’s legal obligations. Management-side lawyers also conduct due diligence, render advice, and draft contract provisions that protect their client’s interests in the sale or acquisition of a business, which has an inevitable impact on the seller’s employees and on the allocation of liability between buyer and seller for past and present violations of employment laws. Lawyers representing individuals (usually referred to as “individual” or “plaintiff’s-side” lawyers) likewise advise applicants and employees on a regular basis regarding compliance with employment laws. Typically, in the first instance, they do so in the context of negotiating an employment contract or a separation from employment, when they are called upon to determine whether the individual’s rights are at risk or have been violated, the extent to which those rights have monetary or other value, whether it is prudent or necessary to take steps to protect or enforce those rights, and whether to seek protection or vindication through negotiation, a government agency investigation, or a civil lawsuit. Ultimately, L&E lawyers on each side of the employee, management, and union relationship have the opportunity to become seasoned litigators and trial lawyers because the advice they provide to their clients during the counseling phase of their engagement is often tested in a court of law, administrative proceeding, or arbitration. In that situation, the L&E practitioner provides the client with an evaluation of the risks and rewards of litigation, explores with the client, opposing counsel, and the trier of fact the possibility of resolving the dispute through settlement, and from time to time takes cases through pleading, discovery, motion practice, trial, and appeal in the quest for a favorable final judgment for the client.

The Practice of L&E Law

For the past three decades, there has been a steady and substantial increase in the number of employment laws and the amount of employment litigation. The civil docket of the local federal district courts reflects that surge, making  litigation under the employment discrimination, wage and hour, and civil rights statutes the largest part of the federal court docket after contract, personal injury, and property claims. Over the same period of time, there has been a decrease in the number of unionized employees in the workforce. As a result of these two phenomena, the demand for employment lawyers has increased in comparison to the demand for labor lawyers. The most capable and desirable lawyer is one who is trained in both aspects of L&E law. Many lawyers, however, focus their practice in one branch or the other of the L&E field. Another characteristic of L&E practice has been the traditional preference of clients for lawyers who limit their practice to one side or the other of the labor/management divide. Today, that expectation is becoming less rigid as more L&E lawyers devote the bulk of their practice to cases involving litigation over individual employment rights, rather than the rights of unions or unionized employees. No matter which branch or side of the L&E field one practices, most practitioners will readily affirm that labor and employment law is an always engaging, challenging, and rewarding field of endeavor. Until work and workers become obsolete, there will always be plenty for an L&E practitioner to do.


Learn

To learn the law needed for L&E practice, a student should take a variety of the advanced courses and writing courses listed below:

Foundation Courses
All are strongly recommended and should be taken early in the upper-level years.
Advanced Courses
Advanced coursework that will build your substantive knowledge in this pathway.
Writing Courses
Coursework to hone your writing skills and develop a portfolio of practicing writing in your field.
Skills Courses
Courses that will develop your oral advocacy, ADR, and other skills necessary for practice.
  • Labor Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Employment Law
  • Public Sector Labor Law
  • Transnational Employment Relations
  • Labor & Employment Arbitration
  • Pension & Employee Benefits
  • Evidence
  • Administrative Law
  • Business Organizations
  • Labor Law-Special Topics
  • Sports Law
  • Entertainment Law
  • Education Law Seminar
  • Fashion Law
  • Federal Practice
  • Federal Courts
  • Federal Civil Discovery Seminar
  • E-Discovery
  • Social Media and The Law
  • Transnational Litigation in U.S. Courts
  • Law and the  European Union
  • International and Comparative Sports Law
  • Advanced Topics in International and Comparative Sports Law
  • Comparative Equality Seminar
  • Issues of Race and Gender in the Law
  • Protective Legislation for Workers
  • Catholic Social Thought and the Law
  • Transnational Litigation Drafting
  • Legal Writing-Advanced
  • Fact Writing and Persuasion in Legal Documents
  • Applied Legal Analysis Parts I & II
  • Drafting: Litigation Documents and Contracts
  • Drafting: New York Civil Practice
  • Directed Research
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Legal Research-Advanced
  • Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
  • Law and Interpretation
  • Negotiation
  • Negotiation (Intensive)
  • Salary Negotiation and Arbitration in Sports
  • Trial Advocacy-Advanced
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Appellate Advocacy Seminar
  • Interviewing and Counseling Seminar
  • Representing Clients in Complex Litigation
  • Civil Rights Litigation Seminar
  • Accounting for Lawyers

Course Descriptions


Experience

Clinics
Students who participate in a clinic are exposed to a practice area through the representation of actual clients under faculty supervision. The following clinics are relevant to this pathway:
Co-Curricular Activities
St. John’s boasts numerous scholarly journals, including the following:
Externships
Externships place students in a wide variety of not-for-profit, government, public interest, and private organizations and firms, where they work directly under the supervision of a practicing attorney. The external placements are bolstered by an in-school seminar in which students analyze their practical experiences and gain skills necessary for the profession. Sample placements in this pathway include:
Government

  • Department of Labor – Office of Solicitor
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • United States District Court, Southern District of New York and Eastern District of New York
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • New York State Division of Human Rights
  • New York City Commission on Human Rights
  • New York City Office of the Corporation Counsel

Law Firms

  • Jackson Lewis
  • Seyfarth Shaw
  • Epstein Becker & Green
  • Levy Ratner
  • Vladeck Elias
  • Outten & Golden
  • Farrell Fritz, P.C.
  • Fox Rothschild
  • Milman Labuda

Business Associations

  • Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association
  • Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations
  • New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO

Public Interest Organizations

  • Center for Seafarer’s Rights
  • New York Unemployment Project

Unions

  • Patrolmen’s Benevolence Society
  • Director’s Guild of America


Network

Law school provides an ideal opportunity to begin building a life-long network of scholars, judges, practitioners, and fellow students who are engaged in some way in L&E law or a related discipline. Visit professors during their regular office hours, and schedule appointments with adjunct professors who practice in the field, to become familiar with the work they do and the career path they followed into the field. Let them get to know you, your background, and your professional interests so that they can alert you to relevant jobs, externships, or scholarships. Join the Law School’s Labor and Employment Law Society (LRELS) and take an active role along with your fellow students in planning the activities sponsored by the LRELS, such as panel discussions, social events, and the creation of content for the LRELS blog. Become a student member of an L&E-related committee of the New York State, New York City, New York County Lawyers Association, Queens County, Brooklyn Bar Association or Nassau County Bar Association and volunteer to assist the practitioners and scholars on your committee in organizing a seminar, conducting research, analyzing a piece of proposed legislation, or drafting a report.

Seek out and apply for the many prizes, fellowships, and scholarships offered by unions, law firms, corporations, and bar association committees in the L&E field, such as the Coca Cola Enterprises Employment Law Scholars program, the Peggy Browning Fund, and the New York State Bar Association Samuel Kaynard Prize. Whenever possible, attend events where you will meet St. John’s Law School alumni, who are very loyal to the School and its graduates, very generous with their time, very large in number, and very well-placed in a wide variety of L&E positions throughout the city, state, and country. Follow blogs and news articles, so that you can keep up with the issues that are facing those in the practice today, such as the New York State Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Journal.


Suggested Path

Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.

Year Fall Spring Summer
1L Required Courses; Pro Bono work related to L&E practice such as NYC Bar Legal Referral Center Required Courses; Pro Bono work related to L&E practice Internship with a judge, union, government agency, or advocacy organization; Rome summer program: Transnational Employment law; Transnational Litigation Drafting; and International Litigation in U.S. Courts.
2L Employment Discrimination; Labor Law; Evidence; an elective in a survey course relating to an industry in which you are interested in practicing L&E law,  such as Sports Law, Entertainment Law, Education Law, or Fashion Law. Labor & Employment Arbitration; Employment Law; a New York Practice or Federal Practice elective; an Advanced Writing elective or Directed Research elective that fulfills APWR. Obtain a summer associate position with a law firm, union, or government agency in the L&E field; prepare the required application, essay or article for submission to win an L&E-related prize, scholarship or fellowship.
3L Administrative Law; Public Sector Labor Law; E-Discovery or Federal Discovery; a Trial Advocacy elective; a Negotiation elective; a Drafting elective; Client skills elective; clinical course work; part-time work for an L&E-related employer on a different side of the L&E field from your prior work experiences. Protective Legislation for Workers; Wage and Hour Law; Labor Law-Special topics; a skill elective in drafting, writing, research or client; continue clinical work or part-time work. Graduation; Bar Review and Bar Exam


Employers

See your Career Development Office counselor to obtain a list of employers in this pathway and for assistance in conducting targeted mailings. Career counselors can also put you in touch with alum in the field, and students who have had externships with various labor and employment law employers; their experiences can be great insights into the profession!

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