William T. Payne (Of Counsel)

Bill Payne concentrates his practice in litigating class action lawsuits to protect retirement benefits of employees and retirees.

During his more than 46 years of law practice, Bill has served as counsel for retirees or employees in more than 100 class action lawsuits throughout the United States, many of which challenged cuts in company-provided retiree health care benefits. For example, in 2006, Bill was appointed as class counsel to represent nearly 600,000 former UAW members (and spouses of members) in actions against General Motors and Ford that were worth billions of dollars, in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals noted: “In view of Payne’s background, both classes would have been hard pressed to find someone with greater ‘experience in handling class actions … and claims of the type asserted in the action’ or an attorney with more knowledge of the applicable law.” UAW v. GM, 497 F.3d 615, 628 (6th Cir. 2007).

Bill received his law degree from Berkeley Law at the University of California in 1979, after having graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1975. After three years of practicing labor law (first in Washington, D.C. and then in San Francisco, CA), Bill served as Assistant General Counsel of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh between 1982 and 1991. For most of those nine years, he had primary responsibility for the Union’s ERISA litigation throughout the United States. From 1991 to 2006, Bill was Partner and later Of Counsel to the firm of Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers LLP in Los Angeles and in Pittsburgh.

Bill actively participates in the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section, and long served as chairperson of the Subcommittee for Benefit Claims and Individual Rights within that Section’s Benefits Committee. He is also a member of the Lawyers Coordinating Committee for the AFL-CIO, and also served on the Board of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Bill is a Charter Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, which admits attorneys who have practiced primarily in the field of employee benefits for at least 20 years, have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the development of public awareness and understanding of the law of employee benefits, have exhibited exemplary character and ethical behavior, and have been recognized by peers for expertise in the field and for intellectual excellence.

Bill has also authored numerous papers relating to labor and employment law, such as “Battling for Benefits,” Trial (December 2005) (with J. Stember and S. Pincus); “Protecting Rights to Early Retirement Benefits,” 2 Employee Rights Quarterly 58 (2001); “Retiree Health Benefits: Sixth Circuit Deals the Retirees Out,” 14 The Labor Lawyer 475 (1999) (with S. Sacher); “Lawsuits Challenging Termination or Modification of Retiree Welfare Benefits,” 10 The Labor Lawyer 91 (1994); “Enjoining Employers Pending Arbitration,” 3 Ind.Rel.L.J. 169 (1979); “Union Negotiated Lifetime Retiree Health Benefits: Promise Or Illusion,” 9 Marquette Elder’s Advisor 319 (2008) (with P. Ewing) and “The Legal Implications of Reducing Public Sector Retiree Health Benefits,” 50 Municipal Lawyer 15 (September/October 2009) (with S. Pincus).  He has served as both a Contributing Author and Chapter Editor of Employee Benefits Law (BNA Books), authored by the ABA Labor Section’s Benefits Committee. He frequently lectures on labor and employment law topics at educational conferences.

Bill is admitted to practice in all state courts in California and Pennsylvania, as well as in numerous federal district and circuit courts, and before the United States Supreme Court. He has been given the highest possible rating (AV) by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

Bill Payne has been selected to the 2022 Super Lawyers® List issued by Thomson Reuters, a distinction awarded to only 5% of lawyers in the state. Bar associations and courts across the country have recognized the legitimacy of the Super Lawyers® selection process, which includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations based upon professional achievement and recognition. The Super Lawyer list is an exclusive annual list and not a lifetime achievement.