When clients call us, we respond within an hour. You don’t find us writing long memos or detailed opinion letters. You pick up the phone, and we give you an answer. Period. Our advice is strategic and practical. The phrase
it depends is not in our vocabulary. We focus on problem-solving. Our goal is to help our clients create great places to work and minimize HR disputes.
Steve is a founding partner and co-managing partner of Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, based in San Francisco. He is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Employment Law Alliance, the world’s largest provider of employment law solutions.
“I have specialized in employment law for my entire career,” Steve says. “It’s an area I was interested in even before law school: dealing with the human dynamic and how it impacts the workplace has always been a point of great fascination for me. I particularly love working with employers who share those values and management practices commonly associated with German-based “Mittelstand” companies: Razor-thin focus, emotional attachment between management and its workforce, innovativeness, obsession with customer service, nimble and flexible management style, and importance placed on social responsibility. What I like most about my work is to help my clients create the best possible places to work and solve their organizational problems when they arise. HR issues are often quirky and sometimes intense which means when my clients call, they are often feeling great stress. My objective is to provide sage wisdom, sound advice and practical solutions delivered with a smile. I find that a little levity goes a long way.
“I was born an entrepreneur. It’s been my passion since childhood. I love to create things, build things and run things, often in an unconventional fashion. That mindset propelled me to help found HK and to dream up and implement my strategy to create a truly global and seamless provider of employment law services via the Employment Law Alliance.”
Steve’s practice involves labor, employment and higher education law on behalf of management in both the private and public sectors. He advises clients throughout the country on day-to-day legal issues affecting the workplace, including employee discipline and terminations, union organizing, workforce reductions, discrimination claims, proprietary information and trade secrets disputes, substance abuse, workplace privacy, disability accommodations, employment contracts, faculty tenure, and other human resources issues. He has also overseen and conducted hundreds of internal investigations involving allegations of employee, student, and faculty misconduct.
“One of my passions is helping companies prevent, investigate and resolve employee misconduct: harassment, bullying, discrimination, retaliation, ethical violations, theft, and other acts of dishonesty.” Steve says. “When I’m retained to serve as a neutral investigator looking into allegations of serious misconduct, it’s normally for a very high-profile matter. I pride myself on being discreet and even-handed and developing rapport with all interested parties. And I never shy away from making tough but necessary decisions.”
Steve regularly defends employers in state and federal courts and administrative agencies on disputes involving discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, trade secrets/unfair competition, and wage and hour law. He has tried to verdict over 100 cases before courts, arbitrators, administrative law judges, and government agencies with a win rate of over 90%. He successfully argued a seminal wage and hour issue before the California Supreme Court. Steve has vast experience working with unionized businesses on matters including collective bargaining, union contract disputes, and labor arbitrations.
“We are not ‘scorched-earth’ litigators,” Steve says. “Rather, we are thoughtfully aggressive. We don’t drive the litigation: our clients’ desired outcome drives the litigation. That’s not just my personality: it’s the personality of the firm. The vast majority of our employment cases, 95%, never get tried. And for that other five percent, we have a great track record. Clients hire me when they really care whether they win or not. It’s because I actually take it personally. I have longstanding relationships with my clients. I know these people and their operations; I care about their enterprise.”
Steve has experience working with boards of directors to improve their effectiveness and communications. His clients range from Fortune 500 companies to small, privately-owned businesses. He loves to travel, and he regularly assists multinational clients by conducting worldwide employment law audits to ensure they are in full compliance with all applicable employment and labor laws.
“Now that companies operate virtually everywhere, often with employees working out of their homes, employment law is complicated in ways it never used to be.” Steve says. “Outsourcing also brings up issues that never used to exist. My colleagues and I are experts on these issues. Because of my extensive travel, I offer a unique perspective on how cultural issues impact HR matters. Understanding how to legally terminate or layoff an employee in some far-flung location is one thing; knowing how the local culture and mores impact those decisions is something quite different.”
Steve represents over 100 colleges and universities throughout the United States. His love of learning and great respect for the academy has driven his decision to develop special expertise in higher education law. He takes a proactive approach when advising clients, emphasizing creative solutions to employee-relations problems. Steve routinely counsels management about ways to prevent costly and protracted litigation. He teaches clients’ executives, managers, and supervisors how to make sound human resource decisions, while at the same time minimizing wrongful termination, discrimination, and sexual harassment claims.
“We take our jobs seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” he says. “And we love what we do. We all have unique backgrounds, outside interests, and personalities, and I am convinced this diversity is part of our secret sauce.”
In addition to work-related travel, Steve enjoys “adventure travel” — going off the beaten track and encountering interesting people and exploring fascinating places. He is passionate about food and wine (he reports that while his self-made cabernet isn’t yet on the French Laundry’s wine list, it is nevertheless “darn tasty vino”). A major train buff, he has ridden on the Orient Express, the Trans-Siberian, the Trans-Canadian Railways, and the Ghan, and is looking forward to an upcoming train trip on the Persian Odyssey.
Named by Best Lawyers as Lawyer of the Year, Employment Law – San Francisco, 2020
Recognized by Chambers USA for the last 11 consecutive years (2010-2020). According Chambers, he is “an incredible service provider, extremely knowledgeable but simultaneously very practical. He has the ability to cut through the noise and come up with sensible advice and resolutions.”
Profiled by Lawdragon, “Lawyer Limelight: Stephen Hirschfeld,” September 23, 2018
National Law Journal, Elite Boutique Trailblazer Award, 2018
Named by HR Executive/Lawdragon as one of America’s 100 most powerful employment lawyers for the last nine consecutive years.
Recognized by BTI Consulting Group on its “Client Service All-Stars 2017” list. Steve is one of only five California employment lawyers and one of only 28 employment lawyers in the country to be recognized “by clients for client service excellence.”
In 2008, the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers named Steve a Fellow. Nomination to the College is by one’s colleagues only, and recognizes those lawyers who have demonstrated sustained and exceptional services to their clients, bar, bench, and public, and the highest level of character, integrity, professional expertise, and leadership. Election as a Fellow of the College is regarded by many as the highest honor in the legal profession for lawyers practicing labor and employment law
Named by Who’s Who Legal – U.S. and International Management Labor and Employment Law and The Expert Guide as one of the world’s leading lawyers in labor and employment law
Listed as a Northern California Super Lawyer 2007-2020
Named by the San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the “California Lawyers Companies Turn to First.”
Listed by AsiaLaw as one of America’s leading Asia-Pacific focused employment lawyers.
Winner of the National Association of College and University Attorneys’ Distinguished Service Award, that organization’s highest award, which was established to recognize individuals who have given extraordinary service to higher education.
“AV” rated by Martindale Hubbell
American Bar Association
InterPacific Bar Association
International Bar Association
Bar Association of San Francisco, Labor & Employment Law Section
National Association of College and University Attorneys
Society for Human Resource Management
XBHR, A Global Think Tank for Cross-Border HR Experts
“Evolving Legal and Practical Considerations in the Response to Workplace Violence,” HR West Conference, Oakland, March 12, 2019
Webinar: Establishing an International Campus or Program in the UAE and Qatar: Corporate, Regulatory, Immigration, and Labour Law Considerations
Steve Hirschfeld Asks “Can Anyone Ever be Fired Anymore?”
Steve Hirschfeld and Amy Durgan Speak to the Santa Clara County Employer Advisory Council on “Reimagining Your Employee Handbook: Has the Time Finally Come?”
Webinar – The BYOD Workplace and the 24/7 Employee
Steve Hirschfeld Co-Presents Workplace Woes: Addressing Bullying and Violence at NACUA’s 2014 April CLE Workshop
Webinar: The Biggest Signs Union Activity is Afoot: What Should You Do About It?
Hiring to Firing – Managing Risk Beginning to End
Steve Hirschfeld Presents Employee Monitoring and Surveillance Across Borders at the xbhr Annual Conference
Webinar – Hot Topics for Employers in the Oil and Gas Industry: A Global Perspective
Steve Hirschfeld Presents a Webinar entitled Can Anyone Ever Be Fired Anymore?: The Current State of Wrongful Termination, sponsored by World Alliance for Retail Excellence & Standards
Steve Hirschfeld Presents ABA Webinar on Preparing for Grievance Arbitration
Steve Hirschfeld Presents EEO Roundup: Setting the New Standard at the NCHRA 2014 Legal & Legislative Conference
California and Nevada: Labor and Employment Law Roundup
Webinar – A Year in Review: Key U.S. Labor and Employment Law Developments in 2013 and What to Expect in 2014
Steve Hirschfeld Speaks at Association of Caribbean Corporate Counsel Summit Luncheon
Redundancies in Asia and the Pacific: Key Issues for Employers
The Use (and Abuse) of the Independent Contractor Webinar
Steve Hirschfeld Presents “How to Effectively Investigate Allegations of Serious Acts of Misconduct” at the Southern California Wine Country SHRM Meeting
PASCO 30th Annual Labor Law Conference
Steve Hirschfeld Presents Harassment in the Workplace – Bullying – The Latest Legal Updates at the Kern County SHRM Symposium
Steve Hirschfeld Presents “Minimizing Legal Risks When Managing Your Employees” at the Marin Employer Advisory Council Meeting
Steve Hirschfeld and Natasha Baker Presents Conducting Effective (and Legal) Workplace Investigations sponsored by the Northern California HR Association
Steve Hirschfeld Co-Presents Corporate Social Responsibility at the ACC EU Annual Conference in Barcelona
Steve Hirschfeld Presents Minimizing Legal Risks When Managing Your Employees
Steve Hirschfeld Presents Speaking with the Enemy: Peer into the Mind of a Plaintiff’s Lawyer at HR West 2013
Steve Hirschfeld Presents Hottest Topics in Discrimination and Harassment at the PASCO Labor Law Conference
Employer Advisory Council Presentation
Employer Advisory Council Presentation “Employment Law Update”
Employer Advisory Council Presentation “The Hottest Topics in Employment Law – What Every HR Professional Needs to Know”
PASCO’s 29th Annual Employment Law & Human Resources Conference, “The Latest Trends in Employment Law”
The Latest Labor and Employment Law Issues Affecting the Wine Industry
Delaware Bench & Bar Conference “Privacy in the Workplace: Reasonable and Unreasonable Expectations”
Ethics and Compliance Programs for Colleges and Universities
Top Ten Things a Business Officer Needs to Know
Managing the Hiring Process
Ensuring Global Employment Law Compliance in International Operations
ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, 2010 Spring Conference
Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities: The Most Important Things College Presidents Need to Know
NACUA’s March 2010 CLE Workshop on Higher Education Employment Law: Changing Campuses, Continuing Challenges
Employees Behaving Badly
Steve Hirschfeld Interviewed on KRON-4 TV About COVID and the Workplace, July 30, 2020
Steve Hirschfeld Pens “Global Employee Handbooks Must Balance Compliance with Culture” for The Society For Human Resource Management
Steve Hirschfeld Addresses the Challenges Facing Multinational Companies When Developing a Global Employee Handbook
Steve Hirschfeld Offers Perspective on Apple-Intel-Google Anti-raiding Suit Being Certified as a Class Action
Your Business: Modern Clients Drive Structural Change by HK Partner Stephen Hirschfeld
Law360 Article 5 Best Practices For Firing Bad Employees Quotes Stephen Hirschfeld
Hirschfeld Comments on California Appellate Decision on Pregnancy Discrimination for Law360
Keeping Facebook Private
A Harsh Verdict on Penn State’s GC Outlined in Freeh Report
Can Employers Demand to See Employees’ and Applicants’ Facebook Pages?
Like schoolyard, the workplace has its bully
At the Crossroads: International Programs, Laws, and Cultural Expectations.
Company Bullies May Get Their Due in court With New Laws
Employment Defense: California Lawyers Companies Turn to First
All Together Now: The Challenge of Managing a Global Workforce
Doing Business in the Muslim World – Practical Issues for Employers and Employees
Workplace Bullying: The Next legal Frontier?
Office Romance: Are the rules changing?
Policymakers, Take Note: The Force is with the Workplace Bloggers
Stopping Sexual Harassment: An Employer’s Guide
Doing Business in the Muslim World
A Global Perspective on Investigating Employee Misconduct
Conducting An Effective Internal Investigation