BY TINA AIKEN
Q. What is the most valuable benefit members get from joining your Section that they can’t get anywhere else?
The WSBA Labor and Employment Law Section (L&E) is one of the larger sections of the Bar with nearly 1,000 members. It includes members practicing many different aspects of labor and employment law, including lawyers representing private- and public-sector employers, unions, management, and individual employees, as well as law professors, arbitrators, and other neutrals, so members get a well-rounded view on this area of law.
Our Section hosts an annual CLE and three or four mini-CLEs each year. For the annual CLE, we offer interactive panel discussions and speakers from around the state to feature the breadth and depth of our Section’s various perspectives. The mini-CLEs are offered to Section members at low or no cost, making them more accessible to new and young lawyers and lawyers of moderate means. These events keep members informed on cutting-edge developments in labor and employment law, which promotes competency and ethical practice. Like other sections, our Section pivoted from hosting in-person seminars to a virtual education format at the beginning of the pandemic. These virtual CLEs have been well attended despite not having the in-person draw. The Section also provides a forum for members to exchange ideas about this area of the law.
L&E Section members also get a chance to give back to the legal community. Our Section sponsors a summer grant program for three law students from Washington law schools (one student from each law school—the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Gonzaga University). The program provides a stipend to students working in labor or employment law during the summer in Washington for a government entity, nonprofit, or union. Our Section’s portion of the grant is $5,000 per student, and each school contributes an additional amount toward its student’s stipend.
Q. What is a recent Section accomplishment or current project that you are excited about?
Our Section recently hosted its annual CLE in a virtual format for the second year in a row due to COVID-19-related restrictions. For a section that enjoys in-person gatherings, networking opportunities, and interactive panels, pivoting to a virtual format has had its challenges. Despite these challenges, the CLE was a success, primarily due to efforts by the top-notch moderators and presenters. They intentionally made the panels as interactive as possible and selected timely and thought-provoking topics, such as Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave law, recent changes to EEO laws, and strategies for conducting trials virtually.
To increase engagement and networking during these times of in-person restrictions, our Section plans to begin hosting monthly virtual meetings on current labor and/or employment law issues in 2022. The meetings will likely be a combination of mini-CLES and shorter informal lunchtime gatherings. The intent is to provide more frequent opportunities for Section members to interact with each other and stay on top of recent developments in this area of the law.
Q. What opportunities does your Section provide for members who are looking for a mentor or for somebody to mentor?
Our Section participates in the WSBA’s Open Section Night, where new and young members have the opportunity to network with experienced attorneys who practice labor and/or employment law and learn more about the Section. Our Section has also participated in section outreach events, such as one hosted by Gonzaga University last year, where students and recent graduates had the opportunity to meet and discuss the Section with its representatives.
In the past, our Section coordinated with the University of Washington and Seattle University to provide networking events for law students. The Section and schools planned a lunch event at one of the two Seattle law schools where attorneys and law students had a chance to network and discuss the practice of labor and employment law. Our Section intends to bring back this annual event and expand it to include students from Gonzaga University.
Our Section has a young lawyer liaison, connecting the Section to the new or young lawyer community. In collaboration with the Section, the young lawyer liaison brings their perspective and connections to building educational programming, events, and other Section activities tailored to new and young lawyers.
Q. What advice do you have for building a successful practice in the area of law related to your Section and how does membership in your Section help do that?
The labor and employment bar tends to be a close-knit group of practitioners who enjoy networking and are happy to provide referrals and input on labor and employment issues. Attending the Section’s CLEs and upcoming lunchtime meetings is one way to connect with, and learn from, these practitioners. Volunteering with the Section or participating on the Section’s Executive Committee also provides opportunities to meet attorneys in this area and grow your practice. The Section is always looking for more ways to connect members and update them on recent labor and employment law developments.
Q. In addition to membership in your Section, what are the best ways to stay up on the developing law in this practice area?
Our Section’s CLEs are available to members and nonmembers, attorneys and non-attorneys alike. Attending the annual Pacific Coast Labor & Employment Law Conference and engaging with the King County Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Section are other excellent ways to connect with practitioners and stay on top of current issues in this area of the law. Many minority bar associations offer legal clinics that provide employment advice. Lawyers can participate in those clinics, and non-lawyers can volunteer to help coordinate the clinics to gain exposure and opportunities in this practice area. Many labor and employment law firms also have podcasts, blogs, or monthly newsletters focused on recent labor and employment law developments.
Learn more > The Section membership year is Jan. 1 – Dec. 31. For more information and to join the Labor and Employment Law Section, or any other Section, visit www.wsba.org/legal-community/sections/sections.
Titles Available From the Lending Library Related to Labor and Employment Law and Other Topics
- The Big Book of HR, by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem
- Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm, by Jennifer J. Rose
- Recruiting Lawyers: How to Hire the Best Talent, by Susan G. Manch and Marcia Pennington Shannon
- You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams, by Lauren Stiller Rikleen