Orly established and now heads HFN’s labour and employment department, with over 20 years of experience in the field. Widely regarded as the leading employment law attorney in Israel, Orly advises international and domestic clients in the public and private sectors on all aspects of labour and employment law and labour relations, as well as employee benefits, executive compensation, collective relations, pensions, privacy and immigration.
What attracted you towards a career in the labour and employment field?
Employment law is interesting on both human and academic levels, and provides fulfilling, exciting work. Practising employment law within the commercial, inter-disciplinary environment of HFN has enabled me and my team to gain a wider business perspective in carrying out our work, and factor in other areas of law (eg, tax, IP, regulatory, securities and corporate), giving our practice greater depth. Practising law in such a dynamic, diverse environment provides a unique and interesting landscape in which to practise labour law.
Why did you decide to establish the employment group at HFN?
Both the managing partner and I realised that in order to have a full commercial practice and serve our clients as necessary, we needed a strong, professional employment team. We appreciated that employment law was critical to providing an excellent service in a wide range of areas, including M&A and litigation, and in our general ongoing advice to businesses, and we have certainly been proved right in this respect.
What are the advantages of practising labour law in a full-service commercial firm?
As the foremost Israeli law firm offering services comprising international labour expertise and the support of a robust corporate practice, we are able to combine the resources, experience and expertise normally found in a “boutique” employment law firm with the capabilities of Israel’s leading full-service, international law firm.
Unlike any other firm in Israel, our department practises international employment law – combining expertise in foreign jurisdictions by representing multinational companies in their local operations, and representing Israeli companies expanding overseas with the assistance of our department’s guidance and knowledge. The size, diversity and the resources available to our department, including administrative support and colleagues from other groups with expertise in relevant practice areas, enable us to engage in multiple matters, and advise and support clients on special projects – all while maintaining the highest level of service for their day-to-day business. Our business-oriented environment ultimately allows us to see the bigger picture and provide the practical, commercial advice our clients need.
In cross-border cases, how vital is knowledge of other cultures?
We believe it is crucial to understand our clients’ businesses and the cultures in which they operate to provide the level of service our clients need. We are able to achieve this due to our partners and associates who, in many cases, have studied or are qualified in multiple jurisdictions or have worked overseas and are familiar with the legal, cultural and linguistic issues relevant to our clients’ businesses. As a result, we have gained unparalleled experience working with international clients entering into, or operating in, the Israeli market and advising companies on their investments and businesses.
We have put much effort into participating in, organising and leading international conferences in the field, and ensuring that we remain up-to-date on the employment issues affecting the jurisdictions in which our clients operate.
To what extent can the law address workplace bullying and harassment?
The law is only one tool for addressing such issues. The law of course has a significant part to play: it must provide a strong incentive for employers to invest the time and resources required to eradicate behaviour that may not otherwise immediately affect their bottom line. We have seen that once the law “names” a phenomenon and a cause of action is defined with sanctions attached, this itself raises awareness of the issue.
Ultimately, education and a cultural shift as to what is considered appropriate conduct at work may have as much, if not more, impact on the issue as the law itself. We therefore aspire to see the law encourage employer-led education and training – for example, by allowing this to constitute a potential defence to claims.
In what ways are you active and involved in the development of employment law in Israel?
We do our best to contribute to the development of employment law in Israel. In particular, I am very active in organising the agenda for major conferences in the field and I take a large part in co-ordinating academic activities, courses and seminars for the Israeli Bar Association on employment law – with these events attended by law-makers and leading thinkers in the field. Furthermore, we seek to take an active part in the regulatory process by commenting on and issuing our firm’s position, and that of other organisations, on proposed legislation and making recommendations based on our knowledge and practical experience of the issues in question.
What developments do you anticipate in the coming years for the law relating to unionisation and the right to strike in Israel?
It is very difficult to say. There is much political unrest in Israel at the moment, and the issue of striking is one of the most controversial matters between the political parties. As such, at this stage it is hard to know in which direction this area will develop from a legislative perspective. However, we do see from the labour courts that employee rights around unionisation and collective employment relations are only getting stronger and stronger.
In what ways will artificial intelligence, algorithms and technology affect the future of employment law?
The influence of AI and technology in general is clearly very significant. We already see AI being harnessed in the hiring process to implement laws on equal opportunities in the workplace. Advancing technology now allows employees to work flexibly and from any location, and the existing legislation on working hours and rest breaks is becoming increasingly ineffectual and in need of updating. Just as employers and employee committees will ultimately have to accept and adjust to a new reality – with certain professions disappearing, and others needing to adapt to new-style working environments and ways of working, we believe that the legislature will do likewise and employment law will evolve accordingly.
Orly established and now heads HFN’s labour and employment department, and has over 20 years of experience in the field. Widely regarded as the leading employment law attorney in Israel, Orly advises international and domestic clients in the public and private sectors on all aspects of labour and employment law and labour relations, as well as employee benefits, executive compensation, collective relations, pensions, privacy and immigration.
What attracted you to a career in law?
As an inquisitive “people person” who enjoys speaking and debate, law seemed like a natural choice. I saw it as an opportunity not only for academic study, but also to implement knowledge on a practical level and nurture leadership skills at the same time. I have no regrets!
What has been the most significant change in labour and employment law in Israel since you began practising?
The most significant development in employment law that I have witnessed in Israel has been the increased activity of the labour courts and their activism. The labour courts have increasingly adopted a proactive stance in their rulings – pushing the boundaries of employment law and creating new law. For example, more than a decade ago, court rulings established (and have since developed) the concept of a “hearing process” with which employers, including those in the private sector, are bound to comply before terminating employees. This has created a move away from what was reminiscent of US-style “employment at will”, to greater employee protections in respect of terminations.
How has the development of unionisation in the Israeli labour market impacted your practice?
In the past, there was a clear division between companies and industries that were unionised, and those that were not. Now the situation is more mixed, and the prospect of any company becoming unionised is no longer outside the realms of possibility. In view of this, our expertise in advising and supporting clients on collective issues has allowed us to represent a growing range of clients in respect of the unionisation processes.
As managing partner of the firm’s labour and employment group, what are your priorities for its development over the next few years?
Both the firm’s priorities and my own are to grow and develop new areas of work for the firm, with a particular emphasis on international work. This leverages on our excellent international networks and our partners and associates who in many cases are qualified in multiple jurisdictions or have worked overseas and are familiar with the legal, cultural and linguistic aspects of such work. However, our top priority is to preserve our existing clients and ensure that they continue to receive the highest-quality work that meets their needs and surpasses their expectations!
In addition, as a growing firm with over 350 lawyers that recruits on an ongoing basis, we aim to offer opportunities across the diverse sectors of Israeli society, including those from under-represented groups and those with disabilities. We strive to provide interesting new challenges to our lawyers in the quality and range of our work, and to use opportunities for implementing our knowledge and expertise to assist in the development of law.
How does the firm ensure it stands out from others in the market?
What particularly sets HFN apart is our unparalleled experience working with international clients entering into or operating in the Israeli market. As such, over the years, a cornerstone of our business has been in advising such companies on their investments and businesses, whether in transactions, litigation or ongoing legal representation.
As a result of this, and of our firm’s professionalism and diverse range of work, we are able to attract the best lawyers – and this ensures that our firm stands out in the market. We also make great efforts to ensure the development of skills and to provide opportunities for advancement within the firm. We continually consider how to establish and develop new practice areas and new fields of growth within our existing ones. So to stand out, we strive to be a pioneering law firm across the board, in terms of our lawyers, our support systems and our use of technology.
How does your work lecturing on the field and your involvement in international forums enhance your practice?
Firstly, this activity creates warm personal relationships that are, of course, important on many levels. Our lecturing and writing for such forums also enable us to display our professional knowledge and talents directly to clients and those who can refer us work on that basis.
Of no less importance is the opportunity it gives us to learn about the law and culture of other jurisdictions from other leading experts in the field, which we can go on to develop and use in our own practice.
You are also greatly involved in promoting diversity within the legal profession – can you tell us a bit about your work in the area and its importance?
Diversity is an issue close to my heart and I consider the achievement of our firm’s goals in this respect to be of great importance. In particular, my partners and I created a diversity committee, which I am proud and honoured to head, and I am excited to be able to take an active role in leading its projects. The committee was established to increase awareness of diversity issues and their importance to the firm, and to involve our employees in developing this issue and harness their perspectives. The committee now comprises over 20 members across all departments (legal and administrative), with a diversity of seniority, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. We have initiated programmes to expand our firm’s diversity through targeted recruitment in various communities, as well as by supporting, developing and advancing employees with different backgrounds within the firm.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
As someone who has dedicated much time and effort to my legal career (which has been both a pleasure and a privilege), inevitably I have faced personal challenges at times. I keep in mind the advice given to me some years ago to perceive and consider such events as my “choice”, rather than a “sacrifice”. I have found this change of perspective to be most encouraging and entirely accurate!