Seton Hall Law at Work: Practicing Employment Law at Littler
It would be easy to think that Glenn Smith ’91, Managing Partner for the Newark office of Littler Mendelson P.C., now known as Littler, doesn’t care much about an office dress code. With a laugh, Lindsay Sorin ’10 remembers wrapping up her first week on the job and riding the elevator with Smith on her way home. “Glenn asked me about the cases I was taking on, and then he said, ‘I noticed you wore business suits all week. If you show up on Monday in anything but jeans, you’re fired.’”
Smith was joking about firing Lindsay Sorin. But he takes the casual dress code seriously. He explained: “We work long hours and we work hard. I want people to feel comfortable. Dressing down is part of quality of life. So is the fact that we encourage everyone to take vacation – as much as they need. All we ask is that they bill the minimum number of hours that the firm requires. For all of us here, work is an important part of life, but it is just part of it.” If Glenn Smith seems unusually concerned about his team’s job satisfaction, it’s because he knows what it takes to attract and retain top-notch employees. Littler is one of the leading labor and employment law firms in the world, and Smith, one the firm’s experts in collective bargaining.
Founded 70 years ago, Littler assists employers with every aspect of workplace litigation—from discrimination and wage and hour disputes to class action and administrative proceedings. In its 2011-12 rankings, U.S. News and Best Lawyers® named Littler "Law Firm of the Year" in Labor Law - Management. Chambers USA listed 50 Littler attorneys (including Smith) in its 2011 directory and client guide, and ranked the firm nationally as one of the top labor and employment law firms. Employment Law360 named the firm one of Employment Law360's top five Employment Groups of 2010.
Littler employs nearly 900 attorneys working in 56 offices (primarily in larger US markets, with three in Mexico and Venezuela) worldwide, with each office hiring according to its needs, which are determined based on both national and local work. Speaking on behalf of the Newark office, Smith said, “We look for two key attributes in a new hire: first, we want even first-year associates to bring a background in labor and employment law, and/or a passion for the specialty. Second, we look for a good personality ‘fit’ with colleagues and clients. We’ve kept these priorities in mind, our selections have proven to be sound, and our first-year associates have really come in and excelled from day one.”
The Newark office typically hires one first-year associate each year. In 2010 and 2011, Littler’s new first year-associates were Seton Hall Law graduates: Sorin and her colleague, Alison Andolena ?11. Sorin was attracted to Seton Hall Law for its nationally ranked health law program, believing she wanted to pursue a career in health care policy. “I took some health law courses, but when I worked as a summer associate I practiced employment law and I loved it.” When Smith sought to hire a law clerk for the 2009-10 school year, a conversation with Dean Patrick Hobbs secured an interview for Sorin. She began working part-time at Littler in the first semester of her third year and she was then offered a full-time position.
For Dean Hobbs, those conversations are a regular occurrence. “One of the most important parts of my job is connecting our talented students with great employers. Lindsay was active in many of our alumni outreach initiatives and I came to know her well, and when I talked with Glenn I told him about her summer experience. We’ve had a relationship with the firm for years – many Seton Hall Law alumni are Littler attorneys. Timing always matters, but what’s more important is that we know the strengths of our students and help them define their career paths so we can tap into our network on their behalf.” Alison Andolena began to building her credentials in labor and employment law through a summer research assistant position with Professor Timothy Glynn, who, along with Professor Charles Sullivan, co-authored Employment Law: Private Ordering and Its Limitations, one of the nation’s seminal employment law casebooks. Andolena helped edit and index the second edition of the book. In her third year, Andolena was honored with the ABA-BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor and Employment Law. When Smith reached out to Seton Hall to determine whether the School had well-qualified candidates, Andolena was enthusiastically recommended and joined the firm just after she took the bar exam.
As a Seton Hall Law graduate himself, Smith is not surprised that so many of his fellow alumni find success at Littler. “As a general rule, the people who choose to go to Seton Hall Law tend to be practical: they are down-to-earth, they go beyond just being ‘book smart.’ Possessing the ability to be both practical and personable are keys to our practice area – after all, we are dealing primarily with issues that revolve around other people and what is happening in their work life. While a good bit of what we do is technical, much of it is based on workplace interaction that requires a feel for finding the right answers.”
Sorin and Andolena agree that their experience at Littler is beyond what they expected.
Sorin commented on the broad experience she has gained within the labor and employment law area. “While our practice area may look very narrow, it really is quite expansive. In just over a year here, I’ve dealt with contracts, torts, non-compete agreements and separation agreements. My work has touched anti-discrimination and matters relating to unionized workforces. I just worked on a defamation trial. There’s something new and interesting for me to learn every day.”
Andolena said, “This is my dream job. If I could have imagined the area of the law I’d practice and the type of work environment I’d want for myself, this would be it.”
How do you find a “dream job?” Glenn Smith offers this advice: “Specialize – even while you’re in law school. Take courses in an area of law that you find interesting. Find internships, summer associate jobs, and do extracurricular work that will give you hands-on experience. And while you are doing that, work to solidify a solid base of contacts that can assist you generally and within that specialty. While this is not the only way to find that opportunity that is just right for you, I think it is fair to say that our profession has moved more toward recognizing the value of specialists rather than generalists.”
Pictured, from left: Lindsay Sorin '10, Glenn Smith '91, and Alison Andolena '11