Five Challenges Faced by Law Firm HR Departments

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals



Any company in any industry is faced with its own set of challenges they need to overcome, but law firms have a few difficulties that are unique to other organizations, both in and outside of the legal industry. Because of the nature of the business, law firms don’t necessarily adhere to the same structure or standards that other enterprises do in terms of their working hours, chains of command, and even the human resources department. 

Here are the top five challenges that law firm HR departments have to tackle.

1. Confidentiality 

Law firms need to be extra careful about confidentiality for the sake of their clients, so they are certainly held to a higher standard than any other business that collects customer or client information. Issues like salary increases or wage garnishment, medical problems, or employee termination have to be handled incredibly sensitively, and absolutely nothing about cases or clients can be discussed outside of the office. Even discussing employee handbook rules and policies must be handled discreetly and carefully. 

2. Recruitment

Law firms, especially the top law firms, often recruit at top law schools to find new talent and hire interns and first-year associates. While plenty of other businesses do this in many other industries, when it comes to law firms, this means the talent pool is often less diverse, whereas other fields may not have this problem. HR needs to strive to hire diversely in order to have a well-rounded talent pool.

3. Marketing

While HR may not handle marketing directly, it’s becoming more common for modern human resources professionals to adapt strategies that are similar to marketing strategies. Employer branding has now fallen under the HR department’s key roles with a goal of encouraging top talent to be drawn to your organization and to highlight how your law firm excels. A lot of these skills require marketing skills as well as the right marketing materials that need to be posted and distributed online. It can include a website for your firm, social and digital marketing campaigns, and content marketing. These require law firm marketing online specificities, like knowing which phrases are not okay to use, as they can end up getting a lawyer disbarred. HR needs to be mindful of these since there is a lot of crossover between their modern-day duties and a marketer’s tasks. 

4. Performance reviews

Human resources are tasked with holding employee performance reviews, but law firms’ performance reviews are based on different benchmarks of success. The level of associate dictates how they are evaluated, so it can be tricky to evaluate all staff on an even playing field. Lower level associates may be assessed based on aspects like the number of billable hours they have worked, while higher-level associates are evaluated on aspects like how they help find and maintain business. 

5. Technology

While some other businesses in other fields can struggle with a similar issue, it can be difficult for a law firm to make the switch from physical paperwork to a more digital organization. More often than not, law firms are not capitalizing on the technology advancements and resources available to them, which can reduce efficiency. HR needs to find a way to overcome this obstacle, so producing and filing documents becomes much simpler and less time-consuming.

James Daniels