Labor of Law: Strategizing on the Future of Work | Tesla Sues Ex-Employee | Plus: Latest Moves


Welcome to Labor of Law. How firms are positioning themselves as leaders on automation. The latest: Littler’s teaming up with a lobby shop to shape policy discussions on artificial intelligence. Plus: Jones Day is the latest firm sued over gender equity. And scroll down for who got the work in the big Tesla case and to see some of the big new hires and promotions.

Staking Positions on ‘Future of Work’

Whenever robots take over the workforce, many lawyers will say you were warned. Management-side firms ever more are boasting of their prowess at providing guidance on automation and artificial intelligence—how technology is supplanting human workforces in myriad industries. Firms are holding conferences, creating what-you-need-to-know pages and designating practice areas for tracking technology and the laws that govern it.

Littler Mendelson released a report this week that was billed as “a practical roadmap” confronting the “technology-induced shockwaves” that are hitting workplaces.

The firm said it is teaming up with the lobby shop Prime Policy Group to form a new group called the “EMMA Coalition” to help shape the policy discussions. Prime Policy first registered to lobby for Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute in October 2017, according to a Senate disclosure.

Littler last year submitted comments about automation to the U.S. Labor Department, pressing the importance of technology and how the federal government can prepare for it and catch up with other countries.

“We need to take responsibility. We can’t wait for the government or businesses to take on this issue,” Michael Lotito, co-chair of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute and a primary author of the report, told me this week. “These are significant workplace issues of our time and it needs to be looked at with vigor.”

Littler Mendelson, of course, is not alone in its focus on automation. There’s competition for clients, and L&E firms have taken on innovation issues with similar vigor in recent years.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius has put on technology-based conferences and offers guidance for navigating these areas on its website. Jackson Lewis published a paper last year on the ethics of artificial intelligence and how to tackle the evolving digital world. Seyfarth Shaw created the Future Employer collaborative, dedicated to a range of questions involving technology and how clients can prepare.

Morgan Lewis partner Tess Blair in Philadelphia told me Wednesday that the firm plans to roll out a new practice group focused on artificial intelligence. And Morgan Lewis is among firms that are developing tech-driven internal systems to better help clients

“We are making significant investments in skillsets and data engineers. We are buying and building our own AI capabilities,” Blair, founder and leader of the firm’s eData team, told me. Blair says the firm will leverage subject-area expertise.

Other firms are adopting and marketing innovative products. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart is among the firms to incorporate automation tools, including some that help clients draft responses and other legal documents. Jackson Lewis and Littler also are building client-facing programs to help streamline data and information.

Littler’s robotics practice group has advised clients on worker notification, displacement and accommodations. The firm said the coalition with Washington-based Prime Policy Group will engage with policymakers and employers “to establish recommended practices and create training programs.”

Prime Policy Group’s lobbying clients include some of the country’s biggest companies—including AT&T, Google and FedEx. Prime Policy, according to a lobbying disclosure in April, reported $20,000 in income on advocacy for Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute. The advocacy issues included artificial intelligence and joint-employer. Prime Policy has also advocated on nominations for Littler.

Who Got the Work

→ A former Jones Day attorney is suing the firm for alleged sex discrimination, claiming it was run as a fraternity and maintains a black box pay system that results in gender disparities. A team from Sanford Heisler Sharp, led by firm chairman David Sanford, represents plaintiff Wendy Moore. The firm has several gender discrimination actions against large law firms, including Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Proskauer Rose and Morrison & Foerster. Read more here.

→ Tesla, represented by the firms Jackson Lewis and Hueston Hennigan, on Wednesday sued a former employee on claims he hacked, stole and transferred trade secrets. My colleague Ross Todd in California reports: “The company has turned to trial heavyweight John Hueston, the lead federal prosecutor in the case against former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling.” The complaint was filed in Nevada federal district court. Read it here.

The employee, Martin Tripp, says he is a whistleblower. “I am being singled out for being a whistleblower. I didn’t hack into system. The data I was collecting was so severe, I had to go to the media,” Tripp told CNNMoney. Reuters has more here on the case.

New & Notable Moves and Promotions

→ Littler Mendelson announced that Yusra Siddiquee will join the firm a partner in the firm’s Toronto office. She joins from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, where she led the business immigration and international mobility team.

→ Jackson Lewis announced that William Anthony and Kevin Lauri will be co-chairs of the firm starting Jan. 1. They succeed Vincent Cino, who will return to his litigation practice. Lauri and Anthony said they will work to bolster the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts. My colleague Dan Packel has more on the announcement here.

Lauri joined Jackson Lewis in 1995 and is a principal in the New York City office. Anthony joined the firm’s San Francisco office in 1991. “He’s done an incredible job building our infrastructure and growing our technology,” Lauri said of Cino’s tenure.


Around the Water Cooler

>> Employment law in general practice firms and the rise of the national boutiques. Dan Scott, director of the legal practice group at Angott Search Group, offers observations. [Mid-Market Report]

>> Major U.S. companies including Microsoft Corp., Airbnb Inc., eBay Inc., and Viacom Inc. weighed into a new LGBT workplace rights case in support of the worker. Conservative states lined up against liberal-leaning states, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission threw its support to the employee. The case is pending in the Eighth Circuit. [National Law Journal]

>> Voters in Washington, over the opposition of business advocates, approved a wage hike for tipped workers, who make $3.33 an hour. [The Hill]

>> Google’s fifth annual diversity report shows a slight bump in the number of women and underrepresented minorities in its ranks. Shareholders recently voted down proposals to study linking executive pay to diversity goals. [WSJ]

>> Civil rights groups are pushing the National Football League to reverse its recently announced policy and allow players to kneel during the anthem. President Trump previously pushed the NFL to fire players for taking the knee. [USA Today]

>> Recent studies suggest boards at companies should be active in addressing sexual harassment and gender equity. Companies see the moves as positive for morale and bottom lines. [CNN Money]

>> The judiciary has not been immune from workplace scrutiny in recent months. Jaime Santos of Goodwin Procter talks about workplace harassment in the courts. [NPR]

>> Dubbed Washington’s #MeToo lawyer, Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall & Bankssays, “We need to be fighting harder, and more strategically and more vocally.” [Washingtonian]

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