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After 34 years with U.S. Steel, former General Counsel James D. Garraux is joining the Pittsburgh office of Fox Rothschild.

Garraux, who will join the office as counsel effective March 31, retired from U.S. Steel at the end of 2013. After taking some time to consider his next option, Garraux decided to join the firm where his son, David Garraux, is also an attorney.

“With anything, there is a right time to stay and a right time to go and I worked at U.S. Steel for 34 years and just determined that it was time to do something else,” James Garraux said. “I was kind of open-minded as to what it is I wanted to do.”

Garraux said Fox Rothschild was a good fit because he is looking to build a practice in Pittsburgh and the firm was looking to grow and diversify its Pittsburgh location. There are currently 25 lawyers in the office, according to the firm’s website.

Garraux said he will be leveraging his experience at U.S. Steel as head of labor and employee relations in creating a diversified corporate practice with an emphasis on labor and employment and employee benefits law, particularly in the context of collective bargaining.

“I came up through U.S. Steel on the labor side of the house,” Garraux said. “It’s what I spent most of my time doing. It’s something I had a lot of experience with.”

Garraux started in U.S. Steel as director of labor arbitration and became general manager and then vice president of labor and employee relations. Garraux was named general counsel and senior vice president, labor relations and environmental affairs, in 2007. He assumed responsibilities for governmental affairs and public policy initiatives in 2009, and was named general counsel and senior vice president—corporate affairs.

“The thing that is going to be most helpful to me in terms of serving clients is just the experience I have with dealing with a very diverse set of business problems, particularly ones that were brought about by the recession in 2008, 2009,” Garraux said.

He said he will draw from his experience working with business leaders and outside counsel in jointly attacking problems in a number of areas, such as customer, supplier and labor issues.

Garraux served as the chief labor negotiator for U.S. Steel during bargaining for the last three national master labor contracts, including the 2003 agreement that enabled U.S. Steel to purchase the assets of National Steel Corp. out of bankruptcy. As general counsel, he led a team of 50 in-house attorneys across a range of legal activities, including: litigation; international trade; labor, employment and employee benefits; corporate and commercial matters; acquisitions and divestitures; and environmental law.

During Garraux’s tenure as general counsel, U.S. Steel completed the acquisitions of Lone Star Technologies in Dallas and Stelco Inc. in Canada and the divestiture of its Serbian operations. The legal team also prevailed in a number of labor and employment litigation matters, including a Fair Labor Standards Act matter recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and a matter involving the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act recently decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Fox Rothschild said in a statement.

“Jim possesses a truly practical and comprehensive understanding of complex corporate management issues and operations. His knowledge and experience will undoubtedly provide tremendous benefit to clients, particularly given his firsthand insight with the complex labor and employment matters that challenge today’s employers,” said Fox Rothschild firmwide managing partner Mark L. Silow in the statement.

Fox Rothschild didn’t have a relationship with U.S. Steel while Garraux was there, he said. Garraux said he became familiar with senior members of the firm in Philadelphia over the years given his son is an associate in the labor and employment department in Pittsburgh. When Garraux retired, a conversation began between him and senior attorneys at the firm, he said.

While most in-house counsel leave for private practice with the expectation that they will be making more money, that wasn’t the case for Garraux. As head of the legal department for the $19 billion company, Garraux brought in $4.2 million in total compensation in 2013, including salary and stock and options awards, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings. He earned about $3.3 million in 2012, according to the same filings.

“Money wasn’t the driver,” Garraux said. “It was unlikely that any law firm was going to pay you that kind of money.”

Garraux said it was more about his interest in continuing to help clients with business problems, particularly in the area of labor and employment and collective bargaining.

“Fox is a good match for me. It’s a national firm. They have a lot of support capabilities in terms of the breadth of their overall national practice and they are looking to build and diversify what they are able to do in the Pittsburgh office and that’s the kind of thing that excites me,” Garraux said.

Garraux has strong ties to Pittsburgh. He was born in the city and has spent most of his life there. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.