Fisher Phillips Launches Legislative Advocacy Group (1)

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By Gayle Cinquegrani

Labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips has launched FP Advocacy LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary that will provide legislative and regulatory advocacy services to management-side clients in the fields of labor and employment law.

The advocacy group will promote its knowledge of labor and employment law instead of relying primarily on personal connections with powerbrokers as many lobbyists do, Fisher Phillips counsel Ben Ebbink told Bloomberg Law March 27. “That’s how we want to differentiate ourselves. We’re subject matter experts,” he said. “We understand the legal issues” in addition to the policy issues.

It isn’t commonplace for law firms to establish subsidiaries. Worklaw firm Littler Mendelson has a Workplace Policy Institute that provides legislative advocacy services. Several employment law firms also have human resources consulting arms.

Ebbink, in Sacramento, is registered as a lobbyist in California. He spent 15 years as the primary policy expert on labor and employment matters for the state assembly there. Ebbink will head FP Advocacy along with Fisher Phillips partner Rick Grimaldi.

Grimaldi, in Philadelphia, is the co-chair of the government relations practice group at Fisher Phillips. He previously worked as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge’s deputy general counsel and as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Subsidiary Format Adds Flexibility

Both lawyers already have been offering advocacy services to their clients, but they’re setting up a subsidiary format because it “gives us flexibility” to work “without some of the strictures and rules that go with the traditional law firm” model, Ebbink said. It would be easier for the subsidiary to hire policy professionals who aren’t lawyers and to use fee agreements that don’t rely on billable hours, he said. Monthly retainers are common for advocacy work, and some fees will be project-based.

FP Advocacy’s list of services include legislative and budget advocacy, drafting and analyzing legislative bills, and monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals. Ebbink said the advocacy group also will offer strategic planning that helps clients identify potential issues and spot flaws in proposed legislation. “We have had real demand from clients,” he said.

“There could be situations where there’d be conflicts of interest,” Ellen Yaroshefsky, the executive director of Hofstra Law School’s Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics, told Bloomberg Law March 28. She spoke hypothetically, without direct knowledge of FP Advocacy.

For example, a piece of legislation supported by an FP Advocacy client could have an adverse effect on a client of the law firm. Yaroshefsky said such conflicts could be cured if the firm discloses them to the client, and the client doesn’t object. The establishment of a subsidiary wouldn’t insulate the firm from the need to consider such conflicts, she said.

Fisher Phillips has about 350 attorneys in 32 offices nationwide.

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