Leading HR in law firms

by 10 Nov 2009

The cover story for this issue features Michael Rose, chief executive partner of Allens Arthur Robinson. Rose won the Neller HR Champion (CEO) Award at the recent HR Leadership Awards, which were held in Melbourne towards the end of October.

The judges noted that Rose has been instrumental in ensuring that people strategy is not only clear to the firm’s senior leaders, but also at every level of the organisation. Considering the highly professional and demanding nature of work in a top-tier law firm, the judges were impressed with the 91 per cent positive response from its employees saying they believe the firm is well managed in its annual employee survey.

Law firms are renowned for their hard cultures of long hours and heavy workloads. For non-fee earners such as HR professionals, it can be an especially tough and uphill battle to earn respect within a law firm. This is made all the more complicated and challenging with so many owners (partners), heavily scrutinising the value that cost centres add (or don’t add) within a firm.

The judges noted that Rose takes time out to provide input to the HR team, regularly attends their meetings and makes public statements both supporting and recognising the work of the HR team.

It is important to have a CEO championing efficient and cost-effective HR initiatives within any organisation. This becomes all the more important within a law firm, where the managing partner needs to take a firm and often courageous stand for good HR at the head of the partnership pyramid.

You can have the greatest HR leader and team in the world, but they will be bashing their heads against a brick wall without top-level support.