The Top 10 Human Resource Issues that Affect Law Firms

by | Apr 15, 2019

Human Resources is an invaluable asset to every business, and law firms are no exception.  This specialized field requires professional expertise and experience. Although most law firms deal with a diversity of clients on a daily basis, many managing partners do not recognize the importance of having an HR professional on the team serving those clients. Every professional service organization relies on recruiting and retaining top talent in order to maintain a competitive edge, and Human Resources professionals are experts in the care and feeding of talented people.

The following list of HR solutions can help to cultivate and maintain a positive work environment, remain compliant with employment law, and avoid liability to the firm:

  1. Plan Your Recruiting Strategically
    Identifying and retaining the best talent is a top priority.  Human Resource professionals can assist in these efforts, in addition to ensuring that firms hire in accordance with Title VII anti-discrimination laws. Effective Human Resources remains focused on the FLSA and Equal Pay Act to ensure you attract quality talent via competitive pay for lawyers, paralegals and administrative staff.
  2. Build Engagement and Recognition Programs
    Staff recognition, open communication, and valuing input are the keys to generating stronger employee engagement and creating a positive work environment. From team-building activities to employee “summits,” an HR professional can develop a wide variety of engagement programs as well as provide firm leadership with the tools necessary to foster a participatory environment.
  3. Develop an Employee Handbook
    HR specialists create and implement comprehensive manuals that ensure the formal communication of all policies and procedures regarding employee engagement, retention and termination; compensation and promotions; workplace conduct; vacation, personal and sick days; firm hierarchy, and performance reviews, as well as disciplinary, grievance and conflict resolution processes.
  4. Establish Career Development Paths
    Attorney training can play a pivotal role in key actions such as representing your firm in the courtroom or with clients; or using the most appropriate software to organize and manage your firm’s work. HR professionals can provide valuable training and development programs to help employees succeed in their current and future roles within the firm.
  5. Protect the Firm
    Being proactive about documenting performance issues and warnings protects firms against potential actions by disgruntled workers. Conversely, employees should understand their rights in response to an unlawful termination or other adverse action. Human Resources can train managers and implement compliant warning and dismissal policies.
  6. Address Compliance and Regulatory Matters
    Federal and state laws and regulations governing the employment relationship are in the HR professional’s wheelhouse. Consulting with an HR professional can prevent costly fines and other penalties, including the potential harm to the organization’s reputation.
  7. Protect Confidential Information
    With all the sensitive information handled by law firms, ethical considerations mandate clear confidentiality policies to address the ramifications of discussing cases or clients outside the office, as well as the proper handling of sensitive information. HR specialists can create and maintain policies that communicate clear and appropriate guidelines for the handling of confidential data.
  8. Develop Compensation Guidelines
    Employees who receive regular evaluations should understand how their pay increases and/or promotions are affected by performance. This also applies to attorneys whose compensation may be linked to case settlements, common benefit work or other variable criteria. Human Resources can offer law firms comprehensive employee evaluation programs with user-friendly forms, tracking tools, and appropriate timetables.
  9. Endorse a Strong Benefits Culture
    Human Resources professionals understand the world of health benefits, family leave, and workplace retirement plans, and can advise leadership on how to implement these in accordance with a variety of laws including ACA, HIPAA, COBRA, and FMLA.
  10. Manage Internal Changes
    Law firms can experience a range of growth opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions that require HR expertise to successfully transition, integrate or retrain employees and lawyers for new or broader roles. A Human Resource specialist can support leadership by developing change plans, creating internal communications, and preparing all necessary documentation.

As law firms grow, employee-related matters also increase. A Human Resources professional — whether in-house or outsourced — can help firms avoid issues of non-compliance or areas of liability while helping to foster a more engaged team and positive corporate culture.

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