By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The St. Louis office of the Jackson Lewis law firm nearly tripled in size this year when it merged with Lowenbaum Law in January.
Jackson Lewis is a national firm headquartered in New York. It specializes in labor law, which is a booming sector in law practice. Lowenbaum Law was a 20-year old St. Louis firm with the same labor focus as the larger firm and with clients throughout the metro St. Louis area including the St. Louis Blues, BJC HealthCare and Ameren.
Michael Lowenbaum said that the merger was a good fit at the right time.
“I was the sole owner of the firm,” Lowenbaum said, “and I started to think about what the future was going to look like.”
The timing of joining Jackson Lewis made sense. “I’ve known Jessica Liss (managing principal of Jackson Lewis’ St. Louis office) and Tom Berry Jr. (a principal in the St. Louis office) for years and admired their operation. We’re doing more and more work around the country. It just seemed like a natural combination because they brought the capabilities of a large, national law firm and we brought many local clients. Business is the same, except we now have 59 offices and 800 lawyers.”
Both Jackson Lewis and Lowenbaum Law were recognized by Best Lawyers in America last year. And last month Jackson Lewis was awarded the Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum for the seventh straight year. The WILEF Gold Standard Certification is awarded to firms that have successfully demonstrated that women represent a meaningful percentage of their equity partners, of their highest leadership positions, of their governance and compensation committees, of their most highly compensated partners and that there be meaningful diversity among their women partners.
Jackson Lewis has also been recommended in The Legal 500 United States 2018 in the practice areas of employee benefits, executive compensation and retirement plans, immigration, labor and employment disputes, labor management relations and workplace and employment counseling.
Despite being located in St. Louis, Lowenbaum said that much of his practice has been based in Southwestern Illinois for the past 35 years. Clients stretch across both public and private domains and include municipalities like O’Fallon, Fairview Heights, Swansea and Shiloh. The private side includes many of the auto dealers, hospitals as well as companies like T. J. Gundlach Machine Co. and Belleville Boot Co.
“I’ll give Mike credit,” said Berry. “He was a visionary. He saw the importance of Southwestern Illinois long before many others did.”
Lowenbaum said he has always focused on traditional labor law, representing management with their dealing with their dealings with their labor unions, labor arbitration, collective bargaining and contract negotiation. Municipalities frequently have five or six unions.
Movements like #MeToo and the incident in Philadelphia in which two African-Americans were arrested in a Starbucks has led to a spike in demand for employee counselling and training around the areas of age, sex and race discrimination, sex harassment and unconscious bias.
Sexual harassment law, Lowenbaum said, has not changed drastically since the first case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, nor has the underlying conduct that constitutes sex harassment. What has changed dramatically is the number of those who speak out and the attention they are able to draw.
With today’s heightened awareness and focus on workplace harassment, he said, employers must evaluate their practices to ensure they are consistently maintaining and implementing preventive and remedial measures, including examining their training strategies and ensuring they are providing regular education to supervisors and employees. They must also audit their internal investigation protocol to ensure it is prompt, impartial, and thorough so that both the employees, and the company, are protected.
And that’s just one area where the legal landscape has changed significantly and is evolving, according to Lowenbaum.
“Most of our clients didn’t have a social media policy before and now we have to change it every six months,” he said.
Lowenbaum said their attorneys are doing more and more presentations, seminars and training sessions for a variety of groups and employers. He said that Jackson Lewis has licensed a software program called Poll Everywhere that they use in their presentations and seminars. It allows attendees to participate and respond via their cell phones while the presentation is going on.
“This has been an amazing way to get people more involved,” Lowenbaum said. “This technology has made training much more effective because it gets the audience engaged and interacting and they can see the results in real time as well.”
Six months into the merger, Lowenbaum is pleased with the results.
“Our clients are particularly happy,” he said. “If they needed the national resources, they got them. If not, they’re still able to take advantage of our daily communiques, blogs and webinars.”