Littler bolts on Zurich boutique to enter Swiss market

LEL Lawyers founder Dr Ueli Sommer joins as a partner to lead new office; launch follows US employment giant setting up shop in Copenhagen last month

Dr Ueli Sommer Image courtesy of Littler Mendelson

US Employment and labour law specialist Littler Mendelson has entered the Swiss market through the acquisition of a practice in Zurich. 

The office will operate under the name Littler | LEL Lawyers and will be led by LEL founder Dr Ueli Sommer, who has joined Littler as a partner. Earlier he practised for more than 20 years at Swiss firm Walder Wyss.

The expansion into Switzerland follows Littler launching in Denmark last month and brings its total European presence to 29 offices in 14 countries. 

“Switzerland is an important market for our clients and – alongside our footprint in the bordering countries of France, Germany, Italy and Austria – this expansion is a milestone in rounding out our European offering,” said Erin Webber, Littler’s managing director and president. “Our global growth and integration strategy has always hinged on finding the right partner in each market we enter. We have found that with Ueli, who is widely regarded as a top employment lawyer both in Switzerland and internationally.”

Sommer launched LEL Lawyers earlier this year after more than two decades at Swiss firm Walder Wyss, where he founded and chaired the employment law practice. He counsels employers on issues including the working environment and industrial injuries, workforce restructurings, employment-related agreements and transactions, compensation schemes, and immigration and choice of domicile matters. 

“We have collaborated with Ueli on several matters over the years and have seen first-hand how much clients value his thoughtful approach and depth of knowledge in navigating their most complex employment matters,” said Stephan Swinkels, a Littler shareholder who helps lead the development and integration of the firm’s global practice. “We are excited for our teams in the DACH region [Germany, Austria and Switzerland], across Europe and globally to benefit from collaborating with Ueli as he spearheads our expansion in Switzerland.”

Sommer will initially be the firm’s only lawyer in Zurich but spokesperson for Littler said he is expected to build out a team of lawyers in the office. 

Sommer is involved in several international legal and business associations and serves on the board of the European Employment Lawyers Association and as co-chair of the International Bar Association’s Discrimination and Equality Law Committee. He is also a former chair of the International Employment Law Committee of the International Section of the American Bar Association Section and former board chair for the Australian Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Sommer pointed to Littler’s global scope and commitment to diversity as strong draws, adding the firm “has built an impressive platform from which to provide top-notch counsel that serves the wide-ranging needs of both global and local employers”. 

Last year Littler marked the launch of its 100th office worldwide through its Belgian partnership with RelianceLittler, which opened in Ghent in a bid to be closer to clients in the Ghent-Kortrijk region – one of the country’s main business hubs. 

In the interim the firm has added offices in Lisbon and the Algarve through a tie-up with Portuguese boutique DCM Lawyers and expanded in Spain through its Spanish affiliate Abdón Pedrajas Littler hiring six lawyers from local rival Cuatrecasas to open an office in Valencia

Last month the firm also added a four-strong team from Danish boutique Skau Reipurth led by partner Bo Enevold Uhrenfeldt to launch in Copenhagen

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