Lawyers in the field of labor and employment law deal with the relations between workers and their employers. Labor lawyers represent either union workers or management and deal with issues such as unfair labor practice charges under the National Labor Relations Act, collective bargaining negotiations, union organizing, and arbitration of union and employee grievances. Attorneys in this practice area may also advise labor or management on other workplace issues, such as affirmative action policies, issues concerning wages and work hours, preparation of employee handbooks, employee policies, covenants not to compete, employee terminations and severance arrangements.
An outgrowth of labor law is employment law. Employment lawyers represent plaintiffs and employers on a wide variety of issues that are not covered by union contracts. They may represent or defend clients on issues such as employment discrimination based on race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or other types of civil rights violations. Employment lawyers may also represent clients who are sued for breach of employment contracts, breach of covenants not to compete, wrongful discharge, invasion of employee right to privacy, and sexual harrassment.
Labor and employment lawyers, particularly those representing management, often work in medium or large firms or as in-house counsel for large corporations. Plaintiffs' lawyers can be found in firms of all sizes, including boutique and solo practices. Unions also employ labor lawyers to handle issues concerning its members, and attorneys specializing in labor and employment law work for federal and state government agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, to name a few.
Other Labor and Employment Websites
- National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Career Listings
- Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship
- AFL-CIO Law Student Union Summer
These are the entry level courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have.
Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.
- Advanced Legal Writing
- Immigration Law
- Labor Relations Law II
- Pre-Trial Advocacy
- Public Sector Labor Relations Law
- Trial Advocacy
- Worker's Compensation Law
These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice.
(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)
Additional information is available on the Labor Law Curricular Concentration page.
Clinics, Externships, and Internships
The Labor Law Externship provides placements for students in a labor law setting. Students spend two days a week working under the supervision of attorneys of the National Labor Relations Board in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in Madison, the Chicago regional office of the Department of Labor, or in other similar agencies. They attend hearings, write draft opinions, research issues, write memos, and in general are exposed to the broad range of work done by the agency. For more information, contact Externship Director Erin McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Organizations and Related Activities
There are three student journals — Wisconsin Law Review , Wisconsin International Law Journal , and Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society — that give students an opportunity to assist with and contribute to the Law School's scholarly publications. These publications provide invaluable training in legal research and writing. Students may receive credit for this activity.
Moot Court is a mock appellate advocacy program that provides invaluable experience for students in brief writing and oral advocacy.
Mock Trial provides real trial experience at a competitive level. Students participate in nationwide competitions that give them opportunities to give opening and closing statements and direct- and cross-examine witnesses. For the student interested in litigation it is an invaluable experience to learn skills you may not get in the classroom.
Unemployment Compensation Appeals Clinic
The Unemployment Compensation Appeals Clinic is staffed by volunteer student advocates who assist clients in obtaining unemployment compensation benefits. Student advocates work closely with supervising attorneys from the community and gain litigation and case management experience while helping those in need of benefits who cannot afford representation.
Here are some of the full-time faculty who teach or have an interest in this subject area:
Labor Employment Law
In addition to our full-time faculty, the Law School's adjunct faculty members — prominent practicing lawyers and judges — bring their specialized knowledge and experience to the classroom.