Niles Pierson is an associate in MoFo’s Los Angeles office. His practice focuses on commercial and employment litigation and counseling. He has defended clients in individual, class, and administrative actions before state and federal courts and agencies, and he has advised clients on matters ranging from employment policies, practices, agreements, and notices to mergers and acquisitions. He has also litigated consumer, contract, landlord-tenant, trademark, trade secret, and antitrust disputes. More recently, his knowledge of employment and labor issues is helping provide guidance for the firm’s COVID-19 Resource Center.
Aside from his regular practice, Niles is actively involved in pro bono work, particularly in the areas of civil rights, immigration, habitability, and habeas cases. He is also the co-chair of both the Los Angeles Black/African-American Affinity Group and the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, and has led a number of implicit bias trainings to the Association of Corporate Counsel.
What was it that initially drew you to this area of law?
When I graduated law school, MoFo was already at the top of my list. The more I read about the firm and its culture, the more I felt like its unique, somewhat quirky, culture was a good fit for me. Throughout the interview process, the lawyers I spoke with seemed to be really happy. As far as choosing Employment and Labor, I had an early interest in labor law and trade unionism. In addition, although I enjoy working on big commercial matters, I also find myself wanting to practice on a more personal, less abstract level. In addition to large class actions, employment and labor also allows me to work on matters with a more human connection, which I really like.
From the earliest conversations I had with the partners in the group, the more it became clear that they shared the same passion for fair and individualized representation that I did and seeing all sides to a dispute to get to the truth. People like Tritia Murata and Eric Tate—co-chairs of the Employment and Labor Group—challenged me by giving me a good amount of responsibility and really encouraged me to bring my ideas to the table.
Do you have any examples of interesting work you’ve performed in this space?
One of my earliest pro bono cases stands out, mostly because I was still pretty fresh out of law school and was given the opportunity to not only help draft the brief, but also to handle the hearings—and we won. The matter involved representing a nonprofit serving the disabled community called the Dayle McIntosh Center during an administrative hearing before the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) claimed that the center misclassified their ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters as independent contractors, rather than employees, which meant that the center would have been locked into paying for years of backdated unemployment insurance. However, we found that the center did not exercise control over their work. We were thrilled that the appeals board overturned the EDD’s decision, because if the board had not, the local community almost certainly would have lost a valuable resource for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Is there any evidence that you’ve seen indicating that diversity and inclusion is becoming more of a priority in your practice group or in the firm?
I think that MoFo does a really great job of addressing the challenges that marginalized individuals face in the legal industry. It’s one of the reasons I chose the firm. I founded and now co-chair the Los Angeles office’s Black Affinity and LGBTQ+ Affinity Groups, both of which have helped me make many meaningful connections with my colleagues. One of my earliest mentors also put me in contact with people from the broader LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles, such as Lambda Legal and Equality California, who have been tremendous resources.
You hear a lot about firms who are trying to do more when it comes to equality and diversity, but MoFo really walks the walk. For example, after the police murder of George Floyd and the events spurring the Black Lives Matter movement, not only did we hear from the chair of the firm about how we were going to get more involved in civil justice, but our practice co-chair Eric Tate sent out a personal note to the Black attorneys in our group to check on us, and offer us a space to vocalize our frustrations and feel supported. He didn’t have to do that, but the fact that he did reinforced my pride in working with a group that really embraces people from all walks of life and allows you to be your authentic self.
Learn more about MoFo’s commitment to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse and women attorneys here.