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The spike in employment class actions for wage-and-hour and other claims is prompting some corporate firms to expand their employment litigation ranks to combat the cases. Bingham McCutchen; Jones Day; Holland & Knight; McDermott, Will & Emery; and New York’s Weil, Gotshal & Manges are among the firms that have added employment litigators since early last year. Epstein Becker & Green is increasingly utilizing its commercial litigators to help with an influx of employment defense work, and Washington’s Hogan & Hartson is adding both labor and employment attorneys and relying on its litigation team. Employment cases are increasingly likely to be labor-intensive class actions, instead of individual employees bringing grievances to court � a trend that has Bingham seeking more senior associates for its team, said Wendy Lazerson, a lawyer in East Palo Alto, Calif., who co-chairs the firm’s labor and employment group. Lazerson said myriad industries have been hit with the cases, including banking, insurance, mortgage, oil, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. “We are seeing cases from plaintiffs’ lawyers who had never handled them [before],” Lazerson said. Labor and employment is being emphasized as a potential growth area at McDermott Will, said Joel Cohen, a New York partner who co-heads the firm’s U.S. employment practice. Since 2007, McDermott Will has added 10 to 15 employment lawyers across the firm, from lateral partners to associates. “There is definitely a high-end labor and employment practice that fits into the large-firm model,” Cohen said. “That’s what we’re going after and what the other firms are going after.” In the past year or so, Cohen’s group has defended Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City in two trials and New York University Medical Center in one trial. Adding all over At Jones Day, the rise in employment class actions has prompted the firm to add associates in California, Illinois and New York. The firm also added a lateral partner in San Diego last year, George S. Howard Jr. “There’s increased complex litigation that bears significantly on the operations of a company,” said Michael Gray, who leads the labor and employment practice in Jones Day’s Chicago office. The waning of securities class actions during the past couple of years has prompted plaintiffs’ lawyers to migrate to employment class actions, said Jeff Klein, a New York partner who chairs Weil Gotshal’s national employment litigation practice. In the past couple of years, Klein has also noticed securities plaintiffs’ lawyers in employment continuing legal education classes that he teaches. “I have started to see an increasing number of plaintiffs’ lawyers who had made their mark in the securities area,” Klein said. At Weil Gotshal, the full-time equivalent of 27 U.S. lawyers worked on employment litigation matters as of the end of last year, with the numbers increasing by more than 30% each year since 2005. The firm regularly handles employment litigation matters for Avon Products Inc., Bank of Montreal, MasterCard Inc. and health insurance company UnitedHealth Group Inc., Klein said. “In major employment cases, your brand is an issue,” Klein said. “Clients, with increasing frequency, are focusing on the degree of expertise and specialization at the firm because employment litigation is more sophisticated, the claims are more sophisticated, and the class action and e-discovery issues are more complicated.”

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