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Hobbs’ job is a labor of love

Hobbs’ job is a labor of love

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Eric Hobbs (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
Eric Hobbs (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

As an attorney specializing in employment law, Eric Hobbs continues to be amazed at what some people do while on the job.

“You think, ‘How stupid can some people be?’ You hear these stories about what someone did and you can just shake your head,” said Hobbs, an attorney with Milwaukee-based Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.

Hobbs handles all aspects of employment law, whether it’s labor contracts, employment counseling, OSHA rules, employment discrimination worker’s compensation or wage-hour matters.

“When I started out in labor law, you did it all. There wasn’t any ADA or FMLA to contend with. Now there’s more specialization, but I still like being able to cover the entire gamut,” he said. “Variety is the spice of life.”

Hobbs became attracted to employment law after seeing his father earn a law degree and deal with labor and arbitration issues.

“With labor law I like that you’re working for the people and I really love people and their issues,” he said.

Outside of his practice, Hobbs keeps a busy schedule. He was honored in 2014 for providing two decades of service to the Milwaukee County Commission for Persons with Disabilities with the inaugural Eric Hobbs Award, which honors those who aid the commission. He also serves as chair of the advisory board for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s School of Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health and is the vice chairman of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Directors.

Labor negotiations are the main part of Hobbs’ work, although not as much as it was before, primarily because there are fewer unions today, he said.

While Hobbs’ clients come from a variety of industries, he said the “big picture” issues are the same.

“Whether it’s helping employers manage their employment issues on the front end or dealing with issues after the fact, the application of the law remains the same,” he said.

When handling workplace issues for some of his manufacturing clients, Hobbs also gets the opportunity to get out of the office.

“I love that part – getting out and seeing the different sites,” he said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Eric Hobbs: I regularly help clients with their people issues and human resources are the most valuable resource a company has.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Hobbs: The Apostle Paul was a superstar lawyer in his day and did his job well, which was persecuting Christians. Yet, when he was confronted with the truth, he became passionate about doing what was right. He had a passion for God and for people. Another attorney I admire is Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission, which focuses on human trafficking. He risks his life everyday doing his job.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Hobbs: I’m a student of Taekwondo and a second-degree black belt. I also sing in and conduct choirs.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Hobbs: People are convinced lawyers defend people they know who are guilty and then lie while defending them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Hobbs: The unexpected long-term friendships that I developed, especially the third-year students who reached out to me as a first-year.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Hobbs: I represented a local hospital in an OSHA case involving needle sticks and blood borne pathogens. It was a new, cutting-edge issue and the case turned on what was an unused labor law regarding joint employment status.

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