By Amanda Ernst,
Portfolio Media, New York (January 22, 2007)
Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC is a small, fairly new Chicago law firm specializing in corporate law, real estate and litigation, but its Employment Service group offers the experience and know-how of a big name practice.
Thats because the practice groups leader, Peter Donati, defected from Winston & Strawn LLP to join Levenfeld in 2005, bringing 12 years of experience, clients and connections with him.
I was pretty happy at Winston, Donati said. But to lead this area—to really get a chance to shape the group around my practice—that was an appealing opportunity for me.
When Levenfeld was founded in 1999 it didnt have an employment group. The practice came to fruition under Donati, who came on board six years later.
Under his leadership, the Employment Service group has grown to two partners and one associate working full time on employment and benefit matters, and four partners and one associate who work on employment issues as part of their varied practices at the firm.
Since Levenfeld is first and foremost a corporate law firm, many of Donatis clients are employers. He said although the firm does not focus on specific industry areas, most of the companies Levenfeld represents are in the communications and financial services industries.
Donati focuses most of his time on counseling and training for company managers and supervisors, employment-related litigation and transactional matters. The Employment Service group is rounded out by of counsel Gabriel Minc, whose practice focuses on ERISA counseling and litigation.
Donati was quick to point out that transactional law is his specialty, although it only comprises about a third of his current practice. He said he has worked with many firms around the world to create a network from which he can draw legal advice and local knowledge.
The network is the key to Donatis successful completion of international divestitures, like Motorola Inc.s sale of its automotive unit, which Donati and his firm supervised last year.
That process took over a year from start to finish, Donati explained. In Europe there are a whole series of laws that deal with the sale of businesses. Throughout the E.U. there are typically notice and informational requirements that have to be satisfied, and you have to consult with employees before the company can be sold. To overcome the various hurdles he faces in this area, Donati has developed a unique expertise.
I dont know any other employment attorneys who do what I do, he said. There are some people that have an understanding of E.U. law, but I know European law, the regulations in Central and South America and in Asia. That allows me to manage the deal process. I see it as a value added service that we can offer our corporate clients.
Donati received his B.S. from Cornell University before heading to the University of Michigan Law School. After his graduation in 1992, Donati clerked for Judge Frank J. Battisi in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
He moved from clerk to associate at Winston & Strawn, where he worked his way up to partner before joining Levenfeld. Donati was in a unique position when he joined his new firm: He was able to bring his years of experience and client roster with him.
Levenfeld overall only boasts about 70 attorneys, but under Donatis direction the Employment Service group has represented high-powered, international clients, like Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor Inc.
Donati is especially proud of work he did on Motorolas recent acquisition of Symbol Technologies. The deal, which reports pin at almost $4 billion, was the companys largest acquisition to date and closed earlier this month.
Donati says that there are advantages to working for a small firm like Levenfeld. For example, in addition to representing employers in wage and hour disputes and other kinds of litigation, Donati sometimes represents executives in cases against their companies or boards.
Donati cited one recent case where Levenfeld represented the former president of a U.S. subsidiary of a U.K.-based company who had been terminated. The exec claimed he had certain contractual rights that the company had tried to deny him.
Donati was successful in recovering not only the amount his client was owed but also his legal fees.
We dont run into as many conflicts as bigger firms, Donati explained. If youre looking to represent an executive and you work for a firm with 500 attorneys, chances are someone somewhere has represented that company at some point.
And although Levenfeld may be at a disadvantage with large class action cases and hundred million dollar settlements, Donati said when employment cases only have one plaintiff, the field becomes even.
Were not Morgan Lewis and well never pretend to be, Donati said. But we have a very satisfied client base that we give high priority to and we do very well with. And were proud of that.