By: Kayla Bell on August 5th, 2015

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When to Hire an Employment Attorney Vs. an HR Consulting Firm

Risk Management | Employee Relations

Employment Law Review: HR Consultant Vs. Attorney Who to Call for What?

Employment law, along with ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations, are two significant aspects of managing a workforce. They are both also convoluted and can cause an organization a lot of headache if not approached appropriately.  Not only are Federal regulations complex and constantly evolving, it’s important to consider that various states have laws that are specific to the workforce in that state.  If your organization holds contracts with the federal government there are several additional regulations that need to be monitored.  As a leader of an organization, it’s important to have the right team on your side.

HR Consultant Vs. an Employment Attorney: Who Does What?

There are two types of professionals that specialize in assisting organizations with regards to employment law and compliance: employment attorneys and human resource professionals. Often times, employment attorneys and human resources professionals work hand in hand to provide a solution to an organization.  Below is general guidance on when it’s appropriate to engage with an employment attorney vs. consult with an HR consultant.

HR Consultant

The ideal HR consultant will take a proactive approach to maintaining your workforce, mitigating risk, maintaining compliance, and recommending and implementing HR best practices.  HR professionals are able to work with your organization on the broad scope of managing a workforce to include: compliance, performance management, benefits administration, recruiting, onboarding, employee relations, and separations. While an HR consultant does not specialize in employment law, a strong HR professional is well versed in employment law and can provide guidance around federal and state regulations.  By maintaining a proactive human resources function, potential risk is identified and mitigated (as much as possible) through performance management, corrective action plans, policy enforcement, etc.  A great HR consultant will be confident in advising the organization on when it’s necessary to loop an employment attorney in due to a given situation, always keeping the organization’s best interest in mind.

Employment Attorney

While an employment attorney can never guarantee how a situation will unfold, nor can you ever assume zero risk, having the specialized knowledge in employment law and court case history that an employment attorney brings to the table is imperative when considering actions that may result in litigation.  Effective employment attorneys are able to walk you through preparation processes that ensure due diligence of your organization before taking any actions that may result in legal action.  He/she will assess the potential risk to the organization associated with that action and provide recommendations for mitigating that risk.   Not only is it important to know how the law is written, employment attorneys are able to explain how the law has been administered in the court system and is able to provide guidance and documentation that has a record of standing up in the court of law.

When to Hire an Employment Attorney Vs. an HR Consulting Firm

If your organization is reviewing the overall management of your workforce, you likely need to engage with an HR consulting firm. If your organization is focusing in on one critical issues (reduction in force, for example) concerning employment law and federal regulation, then it may be appropriate to engage with an attorney.  Keep in mind that attorney fees are typically significant, so it’s important to be conscious of how the attorney should focus his/her time while working with your HR team to provide the most cost effective solution, while still mitigating risk and ensuring due diligence.