Best Lawyers 2019: Labor and Employment

by Doug Chartier

From immigration to trade secrets, management-side Best Lawyers in employment stay busy

Colorado hasn’t lacked for high-performing management-side employment and labor and employment attorneys. And it’s a good thing, too; as the state’s economy has grown in recent years, so has its workforce, which naturally increases employers’ demand for legal advice on issues ranging from discrimination to immigration.

When it comes to most of the labor and employment attorneys recognized as year’s Best Lawyers, it would be unfair describe their practices as merely labor and employment. The Best Lawyers honorees Law Week interviewed for this article have a cross section of niches that illustrate just how many issues workplace law touches.

And with a growing state economy and shifting regulations at the state and federal level, they’re all pretty busy lately.

“Overall I would expect employment law demand … for outside legal services to typically be slightly higher than in recent years,” said Austin Smith, the managing shareholder of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart’s Denver office. Including Smith, the firm’s Denver office has five Best Lawyers honorees in labor and employment categories, the others being John Combs, David Powell, Christopher Thomas and Cole Wist.

Smith said specialty areas of employment law like immigration look especially primed for growth. Combs and Thomas cover that niche, dealing in nonimmigrant visas and employment verification compliance programs for employers, among a range of other issues. The Trump administration’s focus on immigration law enforcement has understandably increased the demand for this practice area.

With the current administration, Thomas said, “We’re seeing a much greater focus on compliance and the ongoing effort to curtail immigration even in the legal context.” That means more employers will be defending their hiring and compliance practices related to immigration, through litigation if necessary.

Wist’s practice focuses on workplace safety issues for his largely industrial clientele, which has included mining, construction and oil and gas companies. He’s also been an especially active state legislator as House District 37’s Republican representative. He brings his perspective from the capital to clients when it comes to state and federal employment issues. Specifically, he has an eye for how current or pending legislation could raise or relieve compliance burdens on employers.

“There are direct connections between the political climate and what our clients see in terms of compliance costs,” Wist said. “I’m particularly aware of how the two worlds connect.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the September 10, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.

The entire Best Lawyers 2019 list is also available online.