HR infrastructure challenges for growth firms
Small or boutique firms in strong growth phases face some infrastructure questions.
Specifically, at what point will they need to invest in finance, HR, BD and operational systems and processes?
There are some investments, such as practice management and billing systems that have to start with the first practitioner.
But there are others, like some HR systems, that must wait.
From our point of view, with a focus on performance and learning systems, we think the transition point is when firms hit 50-100 people (in total, not just lawyers).
At this point, a few things have taken place:
- The charism of the founding partner or partners are stretched to the point where serious delegation of management responsibility has taken place
- There will be a few relatively senior professional managers in place whose role it is to develop and implement new systems and processes
- Practice groups have developed some real identity, with the resultant challenge of ensuring seamless client experiences across those groups
- People are subjected to a wider range of management (and mismanagement) capabilities, resulting in the need for greater consistency
- Professional staff have increased expectations about what the firm can do for them in terms of career development and learning opportunities
- Firm turnover is permitting medium and long-term investment in resources that will ultimately lead to greater profitability
Importantly, it’s also the point at which the firm can afford professional HR support. Therefore it’s the point at which firms focus on issues like employer brand.
A typical approach to building HR infrastructure in these relatively lean firms will usually start with a competency framework (or role profiles) that reflect the firm’s strategy and culture. From there HR processes such as performance management, learning, recruitment and remuneration can be aligned.