Sarah Platt’s work as a management-side employment lawyer looks quite different now than it did five years ago.
Back then, Platt was helping clients adapt to the aftermath of Wisconsin’s then-newly passed overhaul of collective-bargaining laws, Act 10. Things have since swung a different direction.
Many companies, for example, have responded to the #MeToo movement by making the prevention of sexual harassment a priority.
“We’re seeing a huge cultural shift,” said Platt, who works in the Milwaukee office of Ogletree Deakins. “It’s not really a significant change in the law but is change in expectations of employees and, I think, of society in general. And so a lot of employers are being proactive about that, making sure they are maintaining a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”
Another big part of her work involves making sure there is no unfair discrimination in companies’ compensation and representation practices. Toward that end, Platt provides training and conducts harassment investigations and pay audits.
As is true of any area of the law, more change could be on the way. Take the notion of agency deference. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently overturned its practice of deferring to state agencies’ interpretations of statutes. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a similar case dealing with deference as it relates to federal administrative law.
“It could have a very significant impact, particularly within employment law, where almost every type of litigation starts out with agency litigation,” Platt said.
Although her work gives her plenty to keep up with, Platt finds it all rewarding. That’s true whether she finds herself advising clients on drafting agreements or conducting investigations and audits.
“I like that, ultimately, it impacts people,” she said. “I find that motivating.”
Platt said management-side employment lawyers can be perceived as “bad guys” by their colleagues. That sort of characterization, she said, overlooks the good that lawyers in her line of work often do.
“I think our goal and our clients’ goals are actually very positive,” Platt said. “It really is to do the right thing. A colleague of mine recently said that he thinks in his career, he’s certainly saved more jobs and improved the lives of more individual employees than he could do in any other area of the law.”
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Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your least-favorite class in law school?
Sarah Platt: Probably contracts. It just wasn’t super interesting. The stories behind the cases weren’t as interesting.
WLJ: What’s your favorite movie about lawyers?
SP: It’s totally clichéd, but “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
WLJ: What is your idea of a perfect vacation?
SP: I love to travel, so I’ve taken a lot of dream trips already. I think it’s a combination of an interesting cultural immersion, sort of being brought out of my comfort zone a little bit, but also having some time to relax and see new things.
WLJ: What’s the last thing you bought online?
SP: One interesting thing that I’m trying out is one of these subscription boxes. It’s called CAUSEBOX. I’ve never done it before. I’ll be curious to see what it is, but its premise is that it finds products that give back in some way or support sustainability or good practices for different companies and puts those together in a subscription box.