Spencer Stuart Launches CHRO Search for Harvard Law School

June 3, 2019 – Executive recruiters continue to be in hot pursuit of chief human resource officers and other senior-level HR leaders across the nation. Harvard Law School, the oldest continuously operating law school in the U.S., recently retained Spencer Stuart to lead the search for its next CHRO.

The top HR leader reports directly to the dean for administration and is a key member of Harvard Law School’s senior management team. The executive serves as a strategic advisor to the dean, ad dean, department heads and faculty program directors on all HR matters. The incoming HR executive will oversee all strategic and operational aspects of the human resources function for the school’s 560-plus staff employees, including talent acquisition, compensation, training and development, employee and labor relations, diversity and inclusion, performance management and policy development. The CHRO also works closely with Harvard human resources and other senior HR leaders and administrators at other schools and affiliated organizations.

The incoming CHRO independently provides strategic human resources consulting services in the areas of complex employee relations matters, organizational design and development, change management, recruitment, compensation, training and development strategies, diversity initiatives, and efforts related to improving the work environment, said Spencer Stuart.

The right candidate will have at least 10 years of progressively responsible experience in human resources, business and/or higher education administration as well as substantial staff management experience, said the search firm. An advanced degree in business or law is preferred for the role. In addition, the ideal candidate should have well-developed skills in motivating and managing teams, proven ability to work effectively across a complex organization, and a collaborative and consultative interpersonal work style.

Further Requirements

  • Outstanding leadership, management and interpersonal skills.
  • Strong business acumen.
  • Ability to make tough/timely decisions and say “no” when appropriate and necessary.
  • Impeccable judgment and high personal/professional integrity.
  • Political savviness.
  • Team player who works well with constituents at all levels of the organization.
  • Deft crisis manager and communicator who can deal with a wide range of people issues.

Harvard Law School, established in 1817, is home to the largest academic law library in the world.

Stick Rate

Spencer Stuart’s education practice works with research universities, liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, independent schools, research centers and institutes. Ninety-six percent of the firm’s executive search placements in academia and research in the past five years are still in their roles today, said Spencer Stuart.


The 5 Essential Attributes of a 21st Century CHRO
The role of the chief human resources officer is changing again. Over the years, the best CHROs became much more focused on the business and its strategic needs. Today, however, the needs of the business have evolved — and with it so have the demands on the CHRO.


The practice has placed leaders across all functions with a particular focus on presidents, provosts, deans, CHROs, chief financial officers, chief information officers and vice presidents. Spencer Stuart has placed senior leaders at prestigious schools such as Brown, Colgate, Cornell, Northwestern, Wesleyan and Yale.

HR’s Influence

The CHRO role has always been essential. But changing times have helped to bring the position to new heights in recent years. According to Alan Guarino, vice chairman in the CEO and board services practice for Korn Ferry, there’s a bit of a revolution underway in the world of HR.

“Paying attention to the talent part of the business is critical to success,” he said. “Total human capital costs can account for as much as 70 percent of operating expenses, including for Fortune 500 companies. To get the most from this investment, organizations need to align their talent strategies and their business objectives.” Typically that can fall into the lap of the CHRO.

“Historically, HR has been very proud of its programs,” said Mr. Guarino. “The focus has been the programs and their component parts and not how they actually drove the successful execution of the business strategy. But today, it’s not about the programs. It’s about work streams that align talent to the mission. This alignment puts CHROs in a very strategic position and in partnership with the CEO, CFO, chief marketing officers and other C-level leaders.”

Universities Turning to Search Firms

A number of universities have turned to search firms to find new CHROs. Here is a sampling from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

Koya Leadership Partners recently placed Lorraine Goffe as the new VP for human resources and CHRO of Penn State. Managing director Liz Neumann and vice president Beth Schaefer led the assignment. “We started the search last summer and finished the last interviews before Thanksgiving so there would be plenty of time to have an offer accepted by the middle of December,” said Ms. Schaefer. “Generally, a search at this level takes four to five months to finish when working with a search committee. We became close partners with the search committee chair and David Gray the EVP at Penn State.”

Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search has been enlisted by the University of Oregon to help find a new CHRO. Laura Wilder, the firm’s president, is leading the assignment along with vice president of higher education Porsha Williams. The University of Oregon is seeking an individual with five to 10 years of progressive HR management experience within a complex organization.

Koya Leadership Partners placed Brett I. Last as CHRO of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Managing director Andy Evans, vice president Beth Schaefer and consultant Charlotte Harris led the search. “Brett Last brings to Skidmore a unique professional background that combines human resources leadership with the practice of employment and labor law in higher education and industry,” said Donna Ng, Skidmore’s VP for finance and administration and treasurer.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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