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Be Your Own H.R. Department by Focusing in on These 7 Areas

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 08, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyers running small and boutique firms often have to wear many hats, playing the role of litigator, marketer and office manager. For many, this also means being your own do-it-yourself human resources department.

Of course, no attorney has enough time to spend write out employee guidelines or flipping through new resumes all day. To keep from getting bogged down in administrative tasks, your small firm H.R. work can be made more efficient and more streamlined by focusing in on what matters. Here's seven areas to focus on when working on your human resources:

1. Retention
Just like it's easier to keep a client happy than find a new one, the same is true for employees. Focusing on employee retention will help you keep around your best attorneys and support staff, while avoiding the cost and disruption of hiring new workers. Balance a rewarding culture with challenging work and opportunities to grow -- professionally and monetarily -- to help keep employees around.

2. Recruitment
Of course, your firm will hopefully grow and even your best employees might not stay around forever. Take the time to regularly evaluate your workload and anticipate future employment needs. The more time you have to review and recruit prospective employees, the better talent you'll find.

3. Supervision
Attorneys can be responsible for the ethical breaches of nonlawyer employees they supervise, so one of your major priorities as a DIY human resources department is to make sure employees are properly supervised. This includes offering training on confidentiality, client funds, communication, and the like, but also actively supervising employee practices to make sure they comport with the training, law and legal standards.

4. Litigation Prevention
Lawyers can get sued for violating employment laws just as easily as anyone else. Protect against litigation risks by having strict policies regarding discrimination, harassment, workplace safety and time keeping -- all areas that could turn into expensive lawsuits if they're neglected.

5. Discipline and Grievances
It might seem weird to consider having formalized discipline or grievance procedures in a small firm. Do really need to have an internal bureaucracy when there are only a handful of people in the office? Yeah, you do. A clear, consistent disciplinary process can help establish clear standards for employees, while preserving evidence, records and supporting data should disgruntled employees sue.

6. Payroll
While your boutique firm may feel like a family, your staff is there more for the paycheck than the camaraderie. Make sure you have smooth, consistent payroll procedures to make sure that everyone gets paid regularly and accurately. Nothing can make an employee start looking for another job faster than being told their paycheck will be arriving late.

7. Outsourcing
You can have great success managing your own DIY small firm H.R. department, but remember, there's only so much you can do at once. Consider bringing in consultants to establish systems and procedures or contracting out discrete tasks like tax reporting and payroll. That will save you time for the real business of the firm -- lawyering.

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