Jeremy Roth, co-managing director of fast-growing Littler Mendelson, has been direct about the terms of the global employment and labor firm’s continued expansion: how the proposed local partner matches up is just as important as the market.
He says the firm has found the right fit in Norway, its latest overseas destination, in 12-lawyer Oslo-based Homble Olsby. By adding the 11-year-old labor and employment boutique to its global verein, Littler is gaining its first outpost in Scandinavia, after expanding to France, the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium all over the past three years.
“Norway in particular, and the Scandinavian countries in general, provides the perfect example,” Roth said. “There are markets in this world that we look to, but we’re really looking for the right talent and the right fit.”
Homble Olsby was founded in 2007 by partners Runar Homble and Ole Kristian Olsby, and later joined by four other partners. According to Olsby, labor and employment boutiques—and niche firms in general—are rarities in Norway, compared to the U.S. and the European nations to its south.
“Going into the future as a stand-alone small firm has some challenges,” he said. “By joining Littler, we can have a big brother backing us, where there is a lot of competence in business development, technology development and the international platform, with a U.S. link and a European link.”
Stephan Swinkels, the Netherlands-based Littler shareholder who helps lead the development and integration of the firm’s global practice, elaborated on why Homble Olsby fits into the mix.
“They have an entrepreneurial spirit of leadership,” he said. “They are interested in expanding markets and new ways of providing services to their clients.”
Beyond Norway, the expansion gives the firm a foothold across Scandinavia. Roth described the region as a group of countries with “significant and growing economies” and a “solid, cutting-edge business focus.”
“A number of our clients really sought an access to the Scandinavian market,” Swinkels added.
The announcement comes just days after Littler wrapped its annual shareholders’ retreat in Los Angeles, an event that illustrated the firm’s global growth. After opening up its first international office in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2010, and expanding to Canada and making its initial landing in Europe in 2015, 12 percent of shareholders attending the event came from abroad. “The percentage was even higher if you looked at the dance floor,” Swinkels noted.
Now, says Roth, Littler is hearing directly from specialty labor and employment firms in other jurisdictions, inquiring if they would be a good fit, and groups of lawyers are also asking about the prospect of breaking off from their existing firms.
“We look forward to capitalizing on some of this momentum that we’ve generated,” he noted.