Atlanta-based labor and employment boutique Fisher & Phillips has expanded its Philadelphia office with the addition of partners Rick Grimaldi and Lori Armstrong Halber from the Philadelphia office of New York-based Jackson Lewis.
Grimaldi, who founded Jackson Lewis’ Philadelphia office in 2007 and served as its managing partner until 2012, said part of what brought him over to Fisher & Phillips was the firm’s willingness to launch a government relations practice.
Grimaldi, who served as deputy general counsel to then-Governor Tom Ridge and was chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry before going in-house at Unisys Corp. and eventually entering private practice, said the move would provide him with "an opportunity to broaden the scope of what I can offer clients."
Christopher Stief, managing partner of Fisher & Phillips’ Philadelphia office, said Grimaldi is well known in the Philadelphia labor and employment community and has an impeccable reputation among attorneys.
Halber, meanwhile, said Fisher & Phillips offers her and Grimaldi bench strength similar to that of Jackson Lewis but will also provide them more opportunity to be "entrepreneurial."
Part of that, Halber said, involves Fisher & Phillips’ willingness to be creative with fee agreements, but the other aspect pertains to increased community involvement.
Halber said she and Grimaldi are both active in various community organizations and have wanted to step up their involvement.
Both Halber and Grimaldi focus their practices on representing employers in discrimination and wrongful discharge litigation as well as wage-and-hour disputes. They also represent businesses in labor matters including union organizing, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings.
Stief said that while Fisher & Phillips already had a few clients in common with Grimaldi and Halber, the two attorneys also have the potential to bring several new clients to the firm.
"There’s some overlap but not a ton — probably a handful of clients," Stief said.
According to Stief, Fisher & Phillips has been steadily growing since it opened in Philadelphia, from six lawyers in 2007 to 17 with the additions of Grimaldi and Halber.
"Our office here has grown pretty nicely since we began," Stief said, but noted that the firm has been careful about the lawyers it has added.
"Our view on growth in this office and firmwide in general is we don’t have specific numbers we want to hit in terms of certain headcounts but we are always interested in adding new people if we think they’re a good fit," Stief said, adding that he would anticipate continued expansion of the Philadelphia office.
Stief said that while the labor and employment practice doesn’t experience the same economy-driven peaks and valleys that some other practices do, the nature of the work can change depending on the economic climate.
So, for example, Stief said that during the recession his firm found itself working on more severance agreements than employment agreements.
Recently, however, the firm has noticed more and more clients looking to make executive-level hires, which Stief said could be an indicator that the economy is stabilizing a bit.
"To me, the good news from our practice is we are doing more employment agreements and seeing more clients call and say, ‘Hey, we’re looking to hire this person but she has a non-compete. Would you mind taking a look at the non-compete?’" Stief said.
Halber agreed, noting that employee lawsuits also tend to spike in a recession, while a stronger economy tends to find employers being more proactive and spending more money on training programs as well as on defending against litigation.
Grimaldi added that while work in recent years has tended to lean heavily on the employment side of the practice, four more years of the Obama administration could lead to a renewed emphasis on the traditional labor aspect.
Stief agreed, noting that Fisher & Phillips is fully prepared for that shift, should it occur.