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With 27 attorneys in its employment and employee benefits department, Hartford, Conn.-based Day, Berry & Howard, on its own, doesn’t measure up against a national employment law firm like Jackson Lewis Schnitzler & Krupman, which boasts an army of 325 employment lawyers in 20 offices around the U.S. But by joining a network of over 1,000 employment specialists in all 50 states and overseas, DBH hopes to level the playing field when it comes to its ability to compete for business from large employers with workforces spread throughout the country. “It’s an enormous resource,” one that will both aid the firm’s existing employment clients and help Day Berry attract new ones, DBH employment department chairman Glenn W. Dowd said of the Employment Law Alliance, which was officially unveiled Jan. 8. Though some states have more than one ELA member, Day Berry is the only firm in Connecticut chosen to belong to the invitation-only group, the brainchild of San Francisco employment-law specialist Stephen J. Hirschfeld. NO REFERRAL FEES “What this is meant to do is create a brand name in the marketplace,” maintained Hirschfeld, of the 30-lawyer employment boutique Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld Kelly & Kraemer. “We want large sophisticated clients to be looking at the ELA [to handle their employment-law matters] as a stand-alone entity.” Instead of companies having to hire employment counsel in each jurisdiction where they do business, the alliance can provide them with “one-stop shopping,” Hirschfeld pledged. “An employer who hires one member of the Employment Law Alliance gets over one thousand colleagues standing ready to assist,” promises the group’s Web site, online at www.employmentlawalliance.com. For clients with multi-jurisdictional legal needs, a nationwide team of alliance members, according to Hirschfeld, can be quickly assembled with a single team leader coordinating the sharing of files, legal research, court pleadings and case strategy undertaken by the entire group. Thus, he maintained, there will be no need for an employer to “reinvent the wheel” — or to pay for attorneys to be brought up to speed — in each state where it has employment disputes. And, unlike other law-firm networks, alliance members, according to Hirschfeld, receive no referral fee for sending work to other firms within the group. “It’s more of a voluntary referral network,” said Dowd, a member of ELA’s four-person board of directors. “The purpose of the Alliance,” according to its online pitch, “is not to generate fees but to respond to employers’ legal needs, wherever they arise, with the utmost efficiency and effectiveness.” Linked via the Internet, alliance members, Hirschfeld said, also will work together to advance legal theories for defending employee suits. In addition, the group will sponsor regular “America At Work” surveys to gauge the public’s attitudes about various workplace issues. Firms in the network, he added, range from a three-lawyer employment boutique to full-service firms of between 300 and 500 lawyers. Day Berry is Connecticut’s largest legal outfit with roughly 230 lawyers in Hartford, Stamford and Boston. Hirschfeld said he selected firms not based on size, but on their being the “firm of choice” in the realm of employment law within their own individual legal markets. GIANT KILLERS? “They’re clearly looking to compete with us,” maintained Jeffrey M. Tanenbaum, a senior shareholder in the San Francisco office of Littler Mendelson, which, at nearly 400 lawyers in 29 offices, claims to be the largest U.S. firm to exclusively represent management in employment matters. “Some firms,” the second paragraph of the introduction to ELA’s Web site reads, “market themselves as ‘national’ or ‘international’ law firms. These firms may boast several branch offices — but their nearest branch may be three states away from the region in which the client needs help.” Despite that, national employment firms, Hirschfeld contended, have a financial interest to keep such work to themselves, rather than send it to local law firms that are more familiar with a particular area’s customs and court procedures. Tanenbaum said decisions to hire local counsel “are made by our clients, not us.” Like Tanenbaum, William J. Anthony, managing partner of Jackson Lewis’ 10-lawyer Hartford office, said he doubts that ELA can duplicate the efficiencies and economies of scale that firms such as his are able to provide employers. “We can deliver a consistent approach to the way a client wants to handle matters. [With ELA], you’re talking about potentially 50 different approaches,” Anthony said. “They may try to do what a Jackson Lewis does,” he added. “But it will be interesting to see if they can.”

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