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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Orly Gerbi

Orly Gerbi

Herzog Fox & NeemanWeizmann Street 4Tel AvivIsrael6423904
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Thought Leader

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

The “well-known” Orly Gerbi is a “super-professional and responsive” practitioner who gives “practical and business-oriented advice”, according to peers.

Questions & Answers

Orly established and now heads Herzog’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 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 human and academic levels, and provides fulfilling and exciting work. Moreover, practising employment law within the commercial, interdisciplinary 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 in which to practise labour law!

What do you enjoy most about your role as head of the firm’s labour and employment practice group?

Firstly, I love being a part of Herzog, which never ceases to live up to its reputation as an exciting, interesting and fun place to work. Equally, however, I enjoy working with the partners, lawyers and interns in our department, knowing that we play an integral and key role in the organisation and generate developments within not only our group but the firm as a whole. Together, we are always looking at building up new areas within the scope of employment law, and in particular those that touch upon other practice areas, such as privacy, tax, IP and corporate.

How does your role as a member of the Israeli Association for Employment Law and Social Security enhance your work in private practice?

I am very active in organising the agenda for major conferences for the Association (as well as in coordinating academic activities, courses and seminars on employment law for the Israeli Bar Association), events that are attended by lawmakers and leading thinkers in the field.

Lecturing and writing for such forums enables us to keep up to date with legal developments and emerging trends, helping us to better advise our clients. Of course, our participation also allows us to display our professional knowledge and talents directly to clients and others who can refer work to us on that basis.

To what extent is having a strong international presence an important factor in building a successful labour and employment practice?

Advising international clients has been a cornerstone of Herzog Fox & Neeman over the years, and our firm, and the employment department in particular, has a strong international presence. This has been achieved through our work with international academic and business forums, and our unparalleled experience in working with international companies on their investments and businesses, whether in transactions, litigation or ongoing legal representation. This means that we continually learn about the legal regimes and cultures in our clients’ jurisdictions, enabling us to better understand and serve our clients’ interests.

What impact has the increased emphasis on employers’ behavioural obligations and providing a healthy work environment had on the nature of your advice in recent years?

It is clear that 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 the prevention of sexual harassment and bullying, employee privacy and work–life balance issues.

What are the main challenges lawyers in Israel are facing as a result of the growing restrictions and obligations on employers being imposed by the national labour courts?

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 advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to establish 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 thrive in this environment.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
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