A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

James McDonald; Raising the Bar for Legal Counsel

SHRM16 is right around the corner and it’s high time you start thinking about what types of sessions you want to attend.

Many of you are lucky enough to live and work in a location in which there is a strong and active local SHRM Chapter that offers consistent HR educational courses. Many more of you are lucky enough to travel to smaller or niche conferences when you need to fill that noggin of yours with some good information.

But many of you aren’t that lucky, and once per year, you rely upon this national conference to be taught, to be informed, to satisfy your curiosity, or to invigorate your spirit and passion for this great profession.

Shoot, even if you are one of the lucky ones, you probably look forward to attending SHRM National to get different perspectives or to dig deeper into a specialty discipline in HR. That being said, this conference’s attendees expect presenters to be fantastic! We are looking for someone or something we cannot get elsewhere!boom

Likewise, SHRM knows its conferences are only as good as its presenters and, therefore, its vetting process is a long arduous one!

I think SHRM has a gem in James McDonald.

Mr. McDonald is a managing partner in the national employment law firm, Fisher and Phillips, LLP. While he hails from Georgia, he is currently located in Irvine, California. He is an Instructor for the University of California, Irvine, Human Resources Management Program teaching Labor and Employment Law and his book, “California Employment Law: An Employer’s Guide” published earlier this year.

While his resume is impressive, what I like most about Mr. McDonald is that he is as close to an HR Practitioner as many attorneys get, receiving his HR professional certifications and serving as the “man on speed dial” for many of his clients when employee and labor relations issues come up. Is he in the trenches day to day? No, he’s not, but is his approach better than the boardroom tactics that many employers get from their legal counsel? I think so!

In any event, I liked Mr. McDonald almost immediately and I look forward to meeting him in person in DC. Having presented for five other SHRM National conferences in the last six years, he’s no stranger to SHRM and their conference attendees. This year, Mr. McDonald is offering two separate sessions:

In this session, Mr. McDonald presents his ideas about finding the line between being funny or authentic and being offensive. Or, to put it in another perspective, knowing the difference between being bothered by something you hear and being overly sensitive about it and crying foul. As HR Professionals, we are continually trying to ascertain where the sweet spot is!  The people involved, the totality of the circumstances, etc. make finding the line…or defining the line…nearly impossible. But yet we have to find it, we have to define it, and we have to educate the workforce about it!

Failure to do so makes it difficult for HR Professionals to get people to play nice in the sandbox. Failure makes it difficult for us to refocus the workforce’s efforts on their work. And failure to find the sweet spot almost always results in an increased risk of legal action.

I look forward to this session; I present similar topics to audiences in Alaska. I believe it will be good for me to hear Mr. McDonalds perspective, as well as those of his participants.

Mr. McDonald created this presentation two years ago when it was obvious that employers who weren’t based in California but had employees living in the sunshine state were really screwing things up. (Truth…he didn’t really use those words but please allow me some creative discretion.) Mr. McDonald refers to California’s employment legislation as both “creative” and “burdensome” and suggested to me that while some other states believe they are progressive, only the country of France comes close to California in its employee-focused approach.

(Hmmm, both of these places have a high preponderance of rail thin pretty people and super pro-employee employment legislation…what could be the correlation?)

In any event, Mr. McDonald, who has authored a book on the same topic, will present 10 of the most common “pitfalls” organizations face when employing individuals in California and, as a bonus, he’ll also offer you his expertise to avoid these pitfalls at a super special secret* SHRM16 billable rate.**

I look forward to Mr. McDonald’s presentation because, while I don’t employ individuals in California, many of my clients do and I would be remiss if I didn’t increase my knowledge in that area.

* Mr. McDonald doesn’t know about it.
** Made payable directly to me and in the form of cookies, preferably from the bakery down the street from the convention center but I would also settle for the ones which are sure to be in your boxed lunch.

As I stated earlier, conferences are only as strong as their presenters. If Mr. McDonald is any indication of the caliber of experts willing to share their knowledge with us, we’re in for a treat for SHRM16!

Connect with Mr. McDonald before you go, or go to his session a tad early and introduce yourself before he gets started.

I’ll be in both of his sessions if you want to meet me too…just look for the blogger attached to her laptop and looking for cookies.



Employment LawNational ConferencePresentationSHRMSHRM16

Heather Kinzie • June 6, 2016

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