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WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

The “outstanding” Orly Gerbi “always delivers an amazing quality of work”. Her expertise spans due diligence, contract negotiations, recruitment and compliance implementation, making her the “first port of call for labour matters in Israel”.

Questions & Answers

Orly established and now heads Herzog Fox & Neeman’s labour and employment department, with over 24 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 challenges did you face when establishing the employment group at your firm?

When we started our practice, employment law was handled by boutique law firms and was not considered a core business field for larger commercial firms such as Herzog. Our firm was the first to identify a practical need for employment law assistance. As such, our challenge was to integrate employment law principles into the overall advice provided to our clients, stressing the importance of employment law support as part of the “must-have” legal services that companies should obtain. This required us to change the concept that employment law is not part of the commercial / corporate traditional platform, as was commonly thought back then.

On what sort of matters are clients coming to you most frequently about?

Due to the inherent personal and practical aspects of employment law, it is one of the most dynamic, diverse and fast-paced fields of law. As such, our team handle an extremely wide scope of matters on an ongoing basis. 

As an example, in recent years our clients’ focus has moved away from the consideration of purely financial employment entitlements (minimum wage, annual leave, pension, severance, etc.) to a greater interest in creating a more holistic, accommodating (but no less productive) working environment. This is not only a result of increasing legal obligations, but a reflection of the digital age in which we live, combined with the “war on talent” and the demands of a new generation of employees. As such, we carefully consider HR, managerial and internal communications perspectives when giving legal advice, for example, on matters such as, employee privacy and work-life balance issues.

Naturally, there is constantly a need for advice with respect to daily organisational matters, such as equal opportunities, recruitment, potential termination, privacy issues, pensions and prevention of sexual harassment. 

We are also frequently approached to assist clients with collective relation topics, including representation in negotiations with respect to reaching a collective bargaining agreements or related litigation. This is in addition to representation in the labour courts on various issues.

What has been the biggest impact of covid-19 on the Israeli labour and employment field?

Unfortunately, the recent covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on workplaces, employers, employees and employment relations in Israel, as well as having created uncertainty as to what the future holds for employment relations. 

The covid-19 pandemic has forced employers to navigate the health and economic challenges amid uncertainty and with a lack of clear legal precedent. This has triggered the need for intensive legal advice, which focuses on issues such as the immediate need for re-organisation and the necessity to adjust business operation rules in line with the constantly evolving regulations (which, at times, are amended several times a day). 

In our experience, the pandemic affected our clients in a variety of arenas, including reductions in the workforce, unpaid leave, salary cuts, reduction in scope of work, the protections applicable to special groups of employees, returning to work and the such like. Furthermore, new issues arose, such as the concept of mandatory home quarantine and its implications; how to manage employees working from home; and how to adjust to travel restrictions. 

This new and unprecedented situation has required the department to provide intensive and precise advice in crisis mode. Our team was fully engaged to provide ongoing guidance in a wide range of forums, including conducting live Q&A sessions, issuing client update newsletters and preparing specialised, tailor-made documents on these issues. Moreover, we were in constant contact with various governmental offices, state officials and employer organisations, to identify the upcoming developments, and infer their applicability and impact on workplaces, as well as provide valuable input while regulations are still in the legislative stages.  

What do you consider to be the most significant opportunities and challenges facing labour lawyers over the next five years?

Employment law has always been an area of constant change and development. New restrictions and obligations, of which there are many, inevitably create a degree of insecurity, especially where their scope may not be strictly defined, raising doubts and questions. As a result, one of the main challenges for employment lawyers in this environment is to be able to give practical, commercial, strategic advice, and help clients to allocate legal risk in the face of such uncertainty. Of course, this is a skill honed by practitioners over time and with experience, which is our department’s greatest resource!

What insights have you gained from working with a spectrum of clients, including public and private sector entities around the world?

The diversity of our clients (that differ in many aspects, including business fields and market sectors), grant us a broader understanding of the Israeli market, with an ability to analyse legal problems from a number of viewpoints, based on the culture and specific needs of each and every client. 

Our comprehensive and diverse work with clients from all over the world, grants us a wider perspective and enables us to provide each and every client with tailor-made advice, which is based on their unique characteristics, and not solely on the legal situation. Thanks to this global perspective, our advice also provides a cultural, commercial and practical depth of knowledge, which grants the client with a deeper level of insight, corresponding with their evolving needs.

What should be done in order to promote diversity within the legal profession?

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 have 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, 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.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

This is a very difficult question. I hope to continue to play an active role in developing prominent aspects of Israeli labour law, and promoting diversity. I further hope to continue guiding and assisting local and foreign entities working in Israel, or considering doing so. 

What advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to pursue a career in labour and employment law?

Without underestimating the need for professionalism as in any field of law, I would emphasise to anyone thinking about a career in employment law to consider whether they are a “people person” with an interest in learning and understanding labour relations, culture and HR. As a human-focused, less black and white, area of law, I believe that such individuals are likely to enjoy and even thrive in this environment. 

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Orly Gerbi “always delivers an amazing quality of work”. Orly represents international and domestic clients on all aspects of labour and employment law, making her the “first port of call for labour matters in Israel”.

Questions & Answers

Orly established and now heads Herzog Fox & Neeman’s labour and employment department, with over 24 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 challenges did you face when establishing the employment group at your firm?

When we started our practice, employment law was handled by boutique law firms and was not considered a core business field for larger commercial firms such as Herzog. Our firm was the first to identify a practical need for employment law assistance. As such, our challenge was to integrate employment law principles into the overall advice provided to our clients, stressing the importance of employment law support as part of the “must-have” legal services that companies should obtain. This required us to change the concept that employment law is not part of the commercial/corporate traditional platform, as was commonly thought back then.

How does Herzog Fox & Neeman stand out from its competitors in the market?

What particularly sets Herzog 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 advising such companies on their investments and businesses. As a result of this, and 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 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. 

What are the significant challenges that covid-19 has brought to your practice?

This new and unprecedented situation has required the department to provide intensive and precise advice in crisis mode. Our team was fully engaged to provide ongoing guidance in a wide range of forums, including conducting live Q&A sessions, issuing client update newsletters and preparing specialised, tailor-made documents on these issues. Moreover, we were in constant contact with various governmental offices, state officials and employer organisations, to identify the upcoming developments, and infer their applicability and impact on workplaces, as well as provide valuable input while regulations are still in the legislative stages.

The vaccines give rise to many new precedential questions that were never dealt with before. Currently, the burning topic that is most talked about is the covid-19 vaccines. Other issues include reductions in the workforce, unpaid leave, salary cuts, reduction in scope of work, the protections applicable to special groups of employees, returning to work and more. 

Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie? 

Employment law has always been an area of constant change and development. We anticipate a great deal of labour and employment law development in several areas, in which we see evolving trends. Such trends on the rise include the gig economy, the use of artificial intelligence for processes in the workplace, remote work (which also accelerated due to covid-19). Those trends, and others, trigger many legal, precedential and unique challenges that employment law would play a significant part in. 

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

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 have 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. 

Our hard work is reflected by our achievements. In 2020 alone we won “Best in Israel” and “Best National Firm for Pro Bono Work” by the LMG European Women in Law Awards and won first place in the “Advancing Social Values” category by the Human Resources Management in Israel Organization Awards. Furthermore, we have consistently received commendations from the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, in honour of the firm’s inclusion of minorities. 

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!

What motivated you to specialise in labour and employment law? 

I was drawn to a career in this area since employment law is interesting, on both a human and academic level, and provides fulfilling and exciting work. Moreover, practising employment law within the commercial, inter-disciplinary environment of Herzog has enabled me (and all our team) to gain a wider business perspective in carrying out our work, and factor in other areas of law such as tax, IP, regulatory, securities and corporate, giving our practice greater depth.  

Practising law in such a dynamic, diverse and fast-paced environment provides a unique and interesting landscape on which to practise labour law!

What are the advantages of practising labour law in a full-service commercial firm?

There are great advantages to practising labour law at Herzog, not only as a full-service commercial firm, but also as the largest labour and employment law practice group in the country. As the foremost Israeli law firm offering services comprising international labour expertise with 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 the leading major, full-service, international law firm in Israel. 

Furthermore, 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 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.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
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