But it can sometimes be unclear where to focus your attention when you oversee a department as multi-faceted as HR.
There is, however, one change you can encourage for your HR department that is sure to have a lasting impact on your wider organisation.
It’s a quick-fix that will demonstrate you to be commercially minded and up your standing as a genuine thought-leader, whether it’s your first 90 days in the role or you’ve been in situ for many years.
One to take to the board and be proud of.
So, what is this change, exactly?
One of the biggest challenges HR leaders tell us about is wildly fluctuating costs when seeking employment law advice. You can’t always budget for it and you often can’t plan when a problem hits.
But fixing your specialist legal spend has many benefits. It instantly opens up future planning with your budget. And if you can fix spend to unlimited access to employment lawyers, it helps improve the operational effectiveness of your HR team.
Unpredictability rules the roost as far as employee relations is concerned, so budgeting for how often your team will need to check in with their employment lawyer for operational advice is a largely accepted guessing game.
It does little for the department's credibility at senior level when such costs exceed forecasts.
All the while, it feels as though the odds are against your team gaining any long-term applicable knowledge each time they call upon their lawyer, thanks to the pressures of time imposed by what is an entirely transactional process.
It's limitations like these that have allowed a new breed of law firm to gain traction in the HR sector for a growing number of UK firms, since they first started establishing themselves within the legal industry towards the tail end of 2011.
Previously, the traditional law firm model couldn’t cater to the challenges faced by the modern HR team.
That was until the Legal Services Act came into force in 2007 when Alternative Business Structures (ABS) arrived with the aim of allowing new models of law firms to be developed. ABSs have the flexibility to allow a sharper focus on customer service, innovation and price competition within the legal industry.
For example, at ESP Law, we have used the ABS model to transform the relationship between the lawyer and customer away from being purely transactional and “one-off”.
It’s in favour of a subscription model which encourages a mutually-beneficial working relationship between your HR team and their legal professional and, in a departure from centuries-old legal tradition, makes legal spend a budgetable expense.
It’s also why we call 'customers’, customers and not ‘clients’. Click here for another blog on the true meaning behind this major change in thinking and service approach!
So, how can you leverage the opportunity presented by the Legal Services Act to your advantage?
Well, when the model of a business is such that it benefits them to educate their customer, there lies an unmissable chance to upskill your organisation’s HR team.
In short, the fact that ABS’ customers have access to unlimited legal advice for the duration of their subscription period, means it is in these firms’ interest to build up their customers’ capability to deal with issues independently, in order to minimise the amount of calls made to their advisors.
As such, there is a concerted effort on the part of ABSs to “level up” the knowledge of the HR teams their legal teams advice.
To give another example, at ESP Law, we roll out a period of learning over the course of the first year of a customer’s subscription, using a combination of situational guidance from the team’s lawyer and bespoke training courses developed by our in-house legal team to train teams up in key areas of employment law.
This educational element of the ABS service is aided even further by the subscription model, in that each employment lawyer has the freedom to give as much of their time as is necessary to fully get to know the team on the receiving end of their advice, what their aims are and what challenges they face.
This gives ABS lawyers a clear idea of the specific areas their customer would benefit from learning more about.
The upshot is; an HR team that is more self-sufficient than ever before, has the ability to get past everyday firefighting quickly and is therefore in a position to focus its attention on strategic projects rather than just tactical actions.
Being able to get your HR team to this place where they are making waves within your organisation does wonders for morale and will naturally boost productivity, since the team can see before them the positive impact of their work.
Pull this all together and what you have is a skilful, high-performing HR team that, when put before senior management, is a catalyst for the company-wide recognition that the HR department deserves.
And that’s before you even consider the effect that being able to budget for HR legal spend will have on your team’s strategic success and reputation.
By being able to pay for say; a year’s worth of high-quality legal advice, means you will know for certain how much your department will spend in this area each year.
That means you can push through with the strategic projects that otherwise may have been side-lined, for fear of not leaving enough of a buffer for unexpected legal spend.
It will put your own mind at ease and allow your department the praise it deserves at the most senior level, without the shadow usually cast by budgetary doubts.
Considering a move to an ABS law firm is perhaps one way to draw the most value from the changes introduced by the 2007 Legal Services Act, thanks to the quality guarantee of an SRA certification, the opportunity to raise the standards of expertise within your HR team and the new found relief of being able to budget with certainty and peace of mind.
It’s our mission to advise and develop the employment law capability of HR professionals wherever we can, helping HR teams make a real commercial difference to their organisations. That way, you spend less time solving operational issues and more time actioning projects that drive far-reaching change in your company.
Call 0333 006 2929 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today to discover exactly how we can help you.