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A fast-growing labor and employment law firm from Atlanta has planted its flag in San Francisco.

Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC raided two law firms in the city for partners to launch its newest location.

Thomas McInerney joined from Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP, where he was a partner in the firm's labor and employment law group. Douglas Farmer, formerly a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, is Ogletree's new managing partner in the San Francisco office.

Ogletree, with more than 400 attorneys in 33 offices across the country, is the nation's third largest labor and employment law firm -- behind Jackson Lewis LLP and San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson PC. Ogletree said it represents more than half of the Fortune 50 corporations in the United States. McInerney and Farmer bring clients to Ogletree in a number of industries, including television, retail, health care and engineering.

McInerney's and Farmer's jump to Ogletree illustrates a growing tendency among labor and employment partners: They are bolting general practice firms to join speciality shops. One big reason: rates. Many general practice law firms charge higher hourly rates for labor and employment work than do specialty firms. By moving their labor practice to a boutique, labor lawyers can offer lower rates and hold onto cherished clients.

Clients are another factor fueling partners' lateral moves. Fortune 500 companies are cutting back on the number of labor firms they use. To make themselves more attractive to these clients, some lawyers are joining specialty labor and employment firms to be able to cater to those companies' needs.

Farmer said Ogletree is seeking additional partners for its San Francisco office. He would like the firm to have 12 attorneys in the city within two years.

Founded in 1977 , Ogletree already has a presence in California. The firm opened a branch in Los Angeles in 2003. Ogletree opened seven offices across the country last year, including Cleveland, Philadelphia, Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis.


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