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Showing posts from March, 2011

How hard can it be? HR in law firms

This week CMS Cameron McKenna (CMCK) announced they were outsourcing the whole of their HR function to Integreon. Yawn, yawn. Who cares? It's not a real profession is it? I mean, seriously, how hard can it be? Aren't they just removing a back office administrative function and reducing costs for their clients?

Before we try to answer that question, I ought to declare an interest. I'm currently, temporarily, leading my company's HR function, which consists of about 65 people around the world, in addition to my role as General Counsel. So, although I've gained most of my experience as a customer of HR, for a brief period I am responsible for delivery of the HR service at a decent sized company. I'm therefore taking a very close interest in it. 

Earlier in my career, I was employee of GE, a company of 330,000 people, with annual revenues around $180 billion. That's about the same as the GDP of Singapore (where I'll be later today) and on its own bigger tha…

I'm glad it's your end of the boat that's sinking - the legal department in five years time

Recently Private Eye ran a cover featuring Kate Middleton with a speech bubble saying: “I’m like, yah, so totally a commoner”. You could probably run a version of that joke for many lawyers: “I’m so totally a businessman”. Technically, it may be a true statement, but it doesn't convince. Your perception is all a question of where you're standing and to many business people, lawyers don't look all that business minded. That's probably because many lawyers are unconvinced that the practice of law should be too overtly business-like. It's the old divide between the professions and trade.

For a while now, people have been making predictions about fundamental change in the provision of legal services. Back in 2002, the Evening Standard reported: "During its short existence, Garretts had become a byword among lawyers for multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) - that controversial union of lawyer and accountant which at one point promised a fundamental shake-up of the l…

Name the behaviour - what makes a lawyer successful in-house?

For a very few people, usually labelled as eccentric or rude, telling someone to their face what you really think of them comes naturally. But for most of us, it's something we have to learn. Unless we're taught how, most of us struggle to pass judgement (out-loud) on a person sitting opposite us. It feels faintly sociopathic, like Hannibal Lecter talking to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. People go to great lengths to avoid it. But, in business life, telling people how they're really doing is a critical part of running a company well. If you're a manager and you want to improve the performance of your team, not to mention the career potential of the individuals who work for you, you need to get to grips with this particular skill.

I'll always be grateful to the person who taught me how to give honest feedback to my team-members and colleagues without feeling like a sociopathic mass-murderer. To do it properly, you need to avoid the common pitfall, wh…