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HR Basics 101: You’d Rather Not Ask Me to Unscramble Eggs

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Aug 06, 2009 | 0 Comments

Yesterday we promised you a short refresher on HR basics to help you put the dog days of August to good use so you can hit the ground running in September.

Here's lesson number 1: take the time to plan so that  that you have the basics in place.  We've all heard it before.  "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail."  "You can't build a house from the top down."  There's a million of them, and they're no less true for the repetition.

I can't tell you how many times business clients have come to me for help with "a little problem."  Usually the little problem involves a summons and complaint and the prospect of the imminent expenditure of a lot of money.  Instead of asking me to help head trouble off at the pass, those clients ask me to unscramble eggs (if you'll indulge my mixing of metaphors). 

The trouble is that their problem might have been "little" if they had asked for help at the right time.  In the old Fram oil commercials the tag line was "pay me now or pay me later."  The message: an inexpensive oil filter regularly changed can save much larger repair bills that will result if basic auto maintenance is ignored.  For those of you old enough to remember those commercials, take this 30 second trip down memory lane.

The same principle applies to the law.  Most employment lawyers make a comfortable living drafting handbooks, advising on wage and hour questions, and the like.  They send their kids to college on litigation.  Which would your business rather pay for?

While you're thinking about planning, consider whether you have the right attorney.  Employment law grows more complex by the day.  Find an attorney who is knowledgeable and up-to-date.  The internet has tremendous resources and is a good place to start looking.

Once you've identified someone with the requisite knowledge, interview several to find someone you're comfortable with.  Talk about fees and the attorney's willingness to offer a cost-effective way to achieve your goals.  Also, find someone who's willing to invest the time to really understand your business: its people, systems, culture, and so forth.  You'll get a better work product, customized to your needs, more efficiently delivered.  And when lightning strikes and you find yourself defending a lawsuit, you want someone who understands how you work.  You emphatically do not want to pay to teach an attorney what he needs to know about your business under the time pressure of responding to litigation.

So that's lesson 1.  Plan, get the basics down early, and don't pay someone to unscramble eggs that you've broken unnecessarily.

Next: getting handy with your employee handbook.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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