James R. Erwin

Jim Erwin has extensive state and federal litigation experience in a wide range of substantive areas at the trial, appellate, administrative and arbitration levels. His practice involves the defense at agencies and in court of all types of employment claims, including sex, race, religious and national origin discrimination; sexual and racial harassment; disability discrimination under the ADA; FMLA; retaliation and whistleblower claims; restrictive covenant and trade secrets enforcement; wage-hour claims and class actions; defamation; and labor arbitrations.

Jim counsels employers on a wide range of workplace issues, conducts training sessions on harassment and other workplace issues, and performs investigations for employers. He also advocates for employers before the Maine State Legislature and administrative agencies on important issues of public policy.

Jim works extensively with clients in healthcare and higher education.  He serves as general outside counsel for Bates College, advising on student affairs (including conduct, Title IX, and FERPA), academic affairs, employment, governance, and campus security, and overseeing Piece Atwood’s representation on all other matters.

Among his high-profile matters, Jim obtained contempt findings and a fine against Local 14 of the United Paperworkers International Union for violence arising out of the strike at International Paper Company's Androscoggin Mill in 1987.  He also successfully led a coalition of employers and business associations before the Maine Legislature in 2007 to obtain an amendment to the definition of disability under the Maine Human Rights Act, in response to a court decision of great concern to Maine employers.

Before joining Pierce Atwood Jim served for five years as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Maine. In that capacity he prosecuted homicides statewide and advised multiple state agencies on law enforcement matters.

Jim is the Maine representative for the Employment Law Alliance, a network of over 3,000 attorneys providing employment and labor expertise in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 120 countries around the world.  The ELA has been designated by Chambers and Partners as “Elite – Global-wide” and is one of only two employment law firm networks so designated.

In 1985, Jim was appointed by then-Governor Brennan to serve as a member of the Maine Human Rights Commission.

In 2012, Jim was appointed by Governor LePage to serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Maine System, Maine’s largest educational institution serving over 20,000 students.  In 2017 he was elected Chair of the Board by his fellow trustees.

Honors & Distinctions
  • Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
  • Special Service Award, Maine Innkeepers Association (2011)
  • Named "Lawyer of the Year" in The Best Lawyers in America® in Maine for Employment Law (2015, 2016, 2021), for Labor Law - Management (2017), and for Labor and Employment Litigation (2020)
  • Recognized by The Best Lawyers in America®  for Employment Law – Management, Labor Law – Management, Litigation - Labor and Employment (2003-present)
  • Corporate Intl Magazine Global Award: Employment Litigation Attorney of the Year in Maine (2014)
  • Recognized by Chambers USA as a top-ranked “Band 1” attorney for Employment Law
Professional Activities
  • Chair, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Board (2016-present)
    • Member, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Board (2008-2014)
  • Member, U. S. Chamber of Commerce Labor Relations Committee (2007-2011)
  • Member, American Bar Association Litigation Section, Labor Relations Committee (former Chair, Ethics and Professionalism Subcommittee)
  • Commissioner, Maine Human Rights Commission (1985-1987)


  • Panelist, AGB National Conference on Trusteeship, Getting Presidential Transitions Right (April 14, 2022)
  • Moderator, AGB National Conference on Trusteeship, AGB Peer Exchange: Strategic Planning in an Evolving Normal (April 13, 2021)
  • Panelist, New England Commission of Higher Education Annual Meeting, When Having the Difficult Conversation is the Right Thing to Do (December 10, 2020)
  • Panelist, New England Commission of Higher Education Annual Meeting, Leading Change (December 12, 2019)
  • Co-author, Maine Section on Employment in North America 2022 for Lexology “Getting the Deal Done”

  • ABA Model Jury Instructions, Chapter on Equal Pay Act
  • Op-ed on proposal to mandate paid sick leave, Maine Sunday Telegram (2010)
  • Op-ed on amendment to Maine Human Rights Act definition of disability, Portland Press Herald (2007)
Civic Activities
  • Member, University of Maine System Board of Trustees (2012-2022) Board Chair (2017-2021)
  • Member, Pine Tree Council Executive Board, Boy Scouts of America (2014-2016)
  • Chair, Seeds of Peace Maine Steering Committee (2013-2015)

Practice Areas

Representative Experience
  • Defense of multi-plaintiff and class action wage-hour cases
  • Defense of Federal False Claims Act and Whistleblower claims in U.S. District Court for hospital
  • Defense of employment-related claims arising out of termination by hospital in receivership
  • Defense of age and disability discrimination claims arising out of hospital IT reorganization
  • Arbitration of labor disputes involving discharges, health benefits and clocking for hospital clients