You would think that in a profession where people are the most valuable asset, employers would develop some expertise around human resources. And yet, most lawyers know squat about it. That is not surprising. Most H.R. professionals do not know much about practicing law.
The difference between H.R. professionals and lawyers is that the vast majority of H.R. professionals do not try to practice law. However there are many lawyers who try to hire Associates without the help of someone who knows what the hell they are doing.
These would be the people who simultaneously pat themselves on the back for saving money on retaining H.R. experts to do the hiring, and lament how much time it takes away from their practice to do it themselves.
At our firm we were once held for ransom by an Associate and forced to raise her salary mid-year in order to retain her. My H.R. manager was not enthused about having been put in that position and thought that the Associate was taking advantage of the pressure that her supervising Partner was under, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
What we did not have to do was go to other Associates at a similar level and adjust their salaries to match. Our H.R. manager recommended that we do that. Not only were the other Associates delighted, but we avoided the fall-out that might have occurred if they had found out on their own that those who squawk the loudest and hold the Partners for ransom get paid the most.
Of course for every example of law firms using professionals to handle employment issues properly, I can provide many more stories of law firm Partners doing things themselves and screwing them up. Here are a just a few:
- There was the law firm which had two candidates to choose from. They chose the second-best candidate because he was willing to leave his job on short notice, rather than wait a few weeks for the candidate that wanted to honour his commitment and give the appropriate notice. It did not go well.
- Then there was the Partner who was so busy that she did not have time to allow the candidate to ask all of his questions in the interview, leaving the candidate feeling under-valued. But she did extend an offer. The candidate went elsewhere.
- There are the law firms that offer low salaries because they think that the candidate is desperate or does not know what they are worth. The candidate accepts the job but keeps looking for a position which pays more. The law firm cannot figure out why “nobody shows any loyalty anymore.”
- And how about the law firm which routinely includes questionable termination provisions in their offers while pressuring applicants to accept an offer within 48 hours?
I never understood why a lawyer would take time away from client work to do their own hiring poorly, rather than hire an expert to do it well, probably for less than the billings lost. Bad at math, perhaps?