When Seth Jaffe arrived at Williams-Sonoma in 2002 as its general counsel, “the legal department was not involved in HR matters,” notes Counsel to Counsel, May 2006 at 27. The legal issues arising from the company’s 25,000 employees (a number which swells to 40,000 during the annual holiday season) “were handled directly between HR and outside counsel.” Jaffe changed that and his department took over internal HR legal responsibilities.
Most law departments in the US handle employment related matters, albeit in tandem often with outside counsel. To the internal specialist, if there is one, goes the first call from HR if legal issues arise (See my posts of Feb. 9, 2006 on Intel and HR controls lawyers; Jan. 17, 2006 (3#) on Burlington Coat Factory and 1 employment lawyer per 25,000 employees and Feb. 9, 2006 on ABN Amro hiring its first HR lawyer; Jan. 6, 2006 on other HR metrics; Nov. 19, 2005 on employment litigation statistics in the US and Feb. 12, 2006 in Europe.).