1. What is Employment Law?
Generally, employment law deals with the laws and regulations that govern the employer-employee relationship. Legal issues arising under employment law include employee discrimination, occupational safety and health, employee benefits, wage and hour, and contractual matters such as just cause and termination. Lawyers practicing in this area fall into two different categories: lawyers representing employees and lawyers representing employers.
Employment law should be distinguished from labor law, which is the set of laws and regulations governing labor unions. Students interested in either area of the law may want to consider that presently the practice of labor law is shrinking while the practice of employment law is growing. Students interested in labor law should arrange to meet with Law Career Services to develop a job search strategy as the balance of this guide will focus on employment law.
2. Where is Employment Law practiced?
- Large Law Firms such firms typically focus on defense work in representing employers
- Smaller Law Firms in contrast, plaintiffs work in representing employees is generally found at smaller firms
- Corporations most large corporations have in-house counsel to deal with employment issues
Many lawyers practice at federal agencies or parallel agencies at the state level including the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
3. What Courses and Academic Experiences would be helpful?
- Employment Law
- Employment Discrimination
- Administrative Law
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Interviewing and Counseling
- Labor Law
- Labor Law: The Public Sector
- Trial Techniques
- Judicial Externship
- Civil, S.J. & High Tech Internship Program
- Honors Moot Court
- Law Review/Journal
- KGACLC Worker’s Rights Interview and Advising Clinic
4. What timeline should I be following?
There is no set timeline for taking the courses listed in the prior section and there is no particular sequence in which the courses should be taken. It may be helpful for students to take Administrative Law with or before Employment Discrimination as students will be able to appreciate the role of administrative law within the employment discrimination context. Employment law is more of a counseling practice; lawyers can expect a lot of calls from people who want to know about something that has happened in the office. Consequently, it is recommended that students enroll in Interviewing and Counseling to develop client contact skills.
It is recommended that students pursue a summer internship with a firm, corporation or government agency as most employment law employers prefer candidates with actual experience. Students considering law firms should first determine whether they would like to pursue a career in plaintiffs work or defense work. Remember that defense work is found at larger firms while plaintiffs work is found at smaller firms. Students should research potential employers and meet with LCS to develop a job search strategy. LCS can provide students with contact information for alumni practicing in the various areas of employment law. Students should take the time to conduct informational interviews with these practitioners to determine which opportunities would be the best fit for them.
As a general matter, students are advised to target large law firms, large corporations and federal government agencies during the fall as these entities are more likely to have a set recruiting schedule and know their hiring needs. Consequently, students are advised to target smaller firms, state government agencies, and smaller corporations during the spring.
Another way to attract the attention of employers is for students to write an employment law-related paper. Students may want to consider submitting a paper for publication to the Santa Clara Law Review or any of the journals devoted to Employment Law issues.
5. What Professional Organizations and Associations can I join to meet people and find out more?
- Labor and Employment Relations Association
- Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California
- Section of Labor and Employment of the American Bar Association – This section offers various tracks, including one for people who are new to the area and dont know much about employment law, and provides a great mentoring opportunity. This section also holds an annual CLE Conference where students can attend for a reduced rate and network with professionals
- Many of these organizations are available on Linkedin:
6. What additional resources should I check out for further information?
7. Which faculty members at SCU have worked in Employment Law?