The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Adam T. Pankratz, Shareholder—Labor & Employment
Adam represents local and national employers in a myriad of employment-related and complex commercial matters, including litigation involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wage and hour, wrongful termination, ADA and FMLA leave issues, and other employment matters in state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Mr. Pankratz has experience successfully representing employers in executive termination, non-compete and unfair competition disputes.
Adam also regularly advises employers regarding workplace policies and procedures, and counsels employers on litigation avoidance strategies. He is also an active speaker on various employment-related topics and provides workplace training. Adam graduated cum laude with a B.B.A. in Business Administration from Wichita State University and cum laude from Washburn University School of Law.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
My practice focuses on advising employers in workplace-related matters and defending employers when claims are inevitably made. My practice is approximately 30% counseling employers on litigation avoidance, leave issues, policies & practices, and workplace investigations. The other 70% of my practice is civil litigation of various employment claims.
What types of clients do you represent?
I regularly represent employers of all sizes in the manufacturing, retail, education, service, hospitality, healthcare, insurance, financial services, real estate, private equity, technology, and transportation industries throughout Washington, Missouri and Kansas.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I defend employers on all types of employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuits, and various wage & hour, non-compete and unfair competition disputes. I am often involved in advising employers on investigations of complaints of sexual harassment between employees, and advising employers on all manner of leave and accommodation requests. I am also a frequent speaker on employment matters and provide training to supervisor and non-supervisory employees.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I began practicing general civil and commercial litigation at a general practice firm. After just a short period of time, I found that I gravitated towards employment litigation be--cause it provided significant opportunities to help employers make and defend the right employment decisions. And, employment litigation never gets boring because each case includes a unique fact pattern in an ever changing area of the law.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
A typical day begins early addressing e-mails and revising drafts from the day before, includes several phone calls, a ton more e-mails, and lots of reading and drafting. It’s also typical to have several meetings or depositions, and plenty of time working on various management issues. I also work to reserve enough time to reconnect with clients and engage with my community.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
The best part of my practice is helping employers focus on the human aspect of employment law to make the right decision for both the employee and for the company within the requirements of the law, which is constantly evolving as our culture and employment expectations adjust with different generations.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
The same things that make employment law exciting are the same things the make it challenging—it’s a complex combination of ever-changing federal, state and municipal laws mixed with people who bring with them their own unique personalities and life experiences. With all of these factors, listening skills and an abundance of patience are absolute must-haves.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
This practice area requires keen listening skills, lots of patience, a detailed knowledge of the civil rules and a basic understanding of the various employment laws and how they all interplay with each other. I recommend a series of beginning employment law legal education courses and working with a more experienced lawyer practicing across a broad spectrum of employment laws. It is invaluable to get into the real world and work hand-in-hand with employers developing strategies for addressing everyday issues in the workplace.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
The largest misconception is that employment litigation isn’t unique and any litigator can dabble in employment law here and there. Contrary to that belief, successful employment litigators understand the various laws that could apply, how they interplay with each other, and strategies for handling the complex factual claims to achieve summary judgment.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?
Ogletree Deakins is an international labor and employment boutique with over 800 attorneys representing employers in all areas of workplace law. Ogletree has a number of different specialty areas all related to employment law, such as immigration, sports & entertainment, executive compensation, benefits, OSHA compliance, wage & hour, etc. Ogletree fosters a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, and exceptional client service, all while valuing our diversity.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
I enjoy hiking, traveling, photography, reading, attending symphonies and musical theatre, eating at local restaurants and cooking. I also enjoy researching and trying different wines. I try to work efficiently throughout the week, often going into the office early and sometimes working late so I can spend my weekends with the people I love doing the things we enjoy.