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!