Theresa Mak

Employment law expert Theresa Mak has left Jackson Lewis to join Grube Brown & Geidt, a San Francisco-based boutique formed in 2014 by a trio of ex-Paul Hastings labor and employment lawyers.

Mak’s move comes less than a year after she joined the national labor and employment giant as a partner in San Francisco from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where she spent 12 years as a senior attorney in the Bay Area. Asked about her decision to ditch Big Law, Mak said she will be able to offer clients “more bang for their buck” by being at a small firm.

“We provide really high-quality work, the same quality work that clients from very large, well-known firms expect,” Mak said. “But we can do that with more rate flexibility than a large firm.”

With Mak’s addition, Grube Brown will now have 10 lawyers. Mak said she was attracted to the firm because unlike her previous experience in Big Law, it has been certified as women-owned by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Grube Brown is currently in the process of renewing that certification.

“With employment law there are more options now, clients are open to the idea of basically taking very experienced litigators, who provide the same kind of quality of work as the large firms, but going with a slightly different structure,” Mak said.

Smaller firms such as Grube Brown offer “real alternative lifestyles,” flexible hours and rates, as well as a better way to serve clients in a competitive market, said Mak, who added that she has noticed among her colleagues a growing acceptance for moving away from large firms.

Mak’s new counterparts at Grube Brown have plenty of Big Law experience among them. The firm was founded four years ago by Jeffrey Grube, Elisabeth “Lisa” Brown and Thomas Geidt, all of whom had worked in Paul Hastings’ California offices. Brown and Geidt were of counsel in the firm’s employment litigation group, while Grube was a partner and vice chairman of Paul Hastings’ office in Palo Alto, California.

Grube Brown, which specializes in defending employers in suits filed by employees, opened a Los Angeles office in April 2016 in an effort to capture additional client work in Southern California. In March, Grube Brown welcomed aboard Jennifer Svanfeldt as a partner in San Francisco. Like Mak, Svanfeldt had previously worked at Morgan Lewis, where she spent the past decade as an associate.

This summer Grube Brown watched Katherine Huibonhoa, a former Paul Hastings partner who had joined its ranks in early 2015, leave its San Francisco office to join Curley, Hurtgen & Johnsrud in Menlo Park, California. Mak’s arrival at Grube Brown comes the same month that one of its founders, Grube, has stepped away from the firm.

Grube, who is no longer listed on Grube Brown’s website, is now a semiretired, self-employed counselor, according to his LinkedIn profile. Grube Brown said that Grube retired on Oct. 1 and that the firm is in the process of renaming itself GBG LLP.

As for Jackson Lewis, Mak is the latest partner to leave its California offices after only a short stint at the firm.

In September, D’Anne Gleicher started her own firm in Oakland, California, less than a year after joining Jackson Lewis as a workplace law partner in San Francisco. Kristopher Badame, a litigator who had joined Jackson Lewis in early 2017 as a partner in Irvine, California, also left the firm earlier this year to restart his own firm.

Jackson Lewis has hired several new partners in California, having recruited former Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith practice leader Tracy Costantino a year ago in Los Angeles and earlier this year welcomed aboard a pair of employment litigators in San Francisco from Morgan Lewis and Morrison & Foerster.