Albert Nicholson spent the summer after his second year of law school rotating through various legal departments at oil and gas company Texaco. The internship exposed him to many areas of the law, but it was the labor and employment function that most captured his interest.
“I fell absolutely in love with labor and employment,” says Nicholson. “It sparked something in me because it combined my loves of talking to people, analyzing things, and problem-solving.”
Nicholson has practiced in the field ever since, including in his current role as vice president and assistant general counsel for North American operations at refrigerated food transportation and storage company Lineage Logistics. During his time at Lineage, Nicholson has watched his responsibilities grow in parallel to the company itself––all while applying his decades of labor and employment experience toward each new duty that comes his way.
Following his initial introduction to labor and employment law, Nicholson committed to honing his expertise by going in-house at Texaco directly out of law school. He delved into the specifics of state and federal employment laws and began to handle employment-related lawsuits, workplace investigations, and collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). “Texaco is where I really got the foundation of my labor and employment knowledge,” he says. “It turned out to be a great place to learn.”
Over the course of subsequent roles spanning the private and public sectors alike, Nicholson substantially broadened the scope of his legal knowledge. He managed a wide array of litigation unrelated to labor and employment matters, and he gained a more nuanced understanding of his specialization by drafting employment agreements, interacting with unions, and overseeing administrative hearings and arbitrations.
In 2005, Nicholson joined media conglomerate Freedom Communications. Although he started out in labor and employment, he soon branched out––first into litigation, transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and risk management, and later into human resources (HR). “Managing HR functions instead of just advising on them gave me a really different perspective. It was a very challenging time, but I came out of it with a better understanding of my clients,” he says.
From Freedom, Nicholson jumped to international labor and employment law firm Ogletree Deakins. He moved to Lineage––one of the firm’s clients––just a few years later when the company decided to create an in-house role focusing on labor and employment as well as litigation. “Since that time, my role has expanded quite a bit,” Nicholson explains. “I continue to do labor and employment and litigation, but I also manage our ethics hotline and all our CBAs.”
“I fell absolutely in love with labor and employment. It sparked something in me because it combined my loves of talking to people, analyzing things, and problem-solving.”
In fact, Nicholson played a key part in getting Lineage’s ethics hotline off the ground and in implementing a standardized procedure for negotiating CBAs with the company’s fourteen collective bargaining units. He now serves as a chief CBA negotiator and administers the ethics hotline within the United States and in a number of Lineage’s international operating locations.
Furthermore, Nicholson is assisting in the establishment of Lineage’s first-ever unified compliance program. “The compliance program is about making sure that we have the proper policies in place and that people understand those policies and their obligations under them,” he says. His focus has been on compliance as it pertains to employment-related policies and to the company’s code of conduct, which he helped to develop and which he rolls out to new countries as Lineage expands its global reach.
Nicholson also contributes to records management and training initiatives at Lineage. His training keeps supervisors, managers, and HR professionals up-to-date on new policies and enhances their understanding of fundamental labor and employment topics. “My role allows me to see where we have vulnerabilities within the organization and to identify areas where we could use extra training to help folks better navigate those issues,” Nicholson adds.
Nicholson’s leadership style facilitates his efforts to minimize risk as he tackles key projects at Lineage. He builds strong relationships by taking the time to listen to and learn from his colleagues, then delegates responsibilities based on each team member’s strengths––and the areas where they still have room to grow. “My philosophy is that I should be there to help and to develop others,” Nicholson says. “That’s the way that I choose to lead.”
Nicholson hopes to continue developing his own knowledge as well. From participating in one of Lineage’s inaugural diversity, equity, and inclusion teams to educating himself on the employment laws of other countries, he plans to keep contributing to the company as much as he can.
“I want to continue to establish myself as an asset to Lineage and to continue to grow as a trusted advisor and leader within the company,” Nicholson affirms. Above all else, that means channeling his love of—and expertise in—labor and employment law toward making Lineage an amazing place to work.
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.:
“I have been fortunate enough to work with Albert for many years now. It has been an absolute pleasure. He is a consummate professional and a great person to spend time with.”
–Ignacio J. Garcia, Shareholder