The 6 Laws of Hiring for Attorney Jobs
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Hiring to fill attorney jobs or any law office jobs is an expensive proposition. It’s also a strain on the existing legal staff to serve clients while you’re filling law firm job openings. And what happens if the person you hire isn’t a good fit? What if they leave? What if other employees leave because of the person you hire? What if both the new hire and another employee leave? You could find that your law firm isn’t just back at square one; it’s more like it took one step forward with the hire and then two steps back. This scenario highlights the importance of hiring the right person to fill your attorney job. To help you avoid a total catastrophe that results in the expensive and frustrating chaos of having to go through the hiring process again, we’ve created 6 laws of hiring associates. And the good news is that you can use these laws to help you fill any law firm job openings, even if they’re for legal staff if you just do a little tweaking.
Hiring Law #1: Entry Level or Lateral Hiring
Before you post your attorney job, consider whether you’re interested in an entry level attorney or if you’re interested in a lateral hire. If you’re relatively new to hiring, a lateral hire is a hiring strategy used to bring on an attorney with a certain amount of experience. This is now fairly common in jobs for lawyers.
Of course, while lateral hiring can be great, there are some benefits to entry level attorney jobs as well. One of those benefits is that an entry level attorney may have fewer bad habits they bring with them into your law firm. Sure, they may need more training. Yet, experience isn’t always everything. Sometimes, hiring based only on experience is a serious mistake.
The same can also be said for legal support staff. Consider whether you’re open to hiring entry level support staff or if you truly need a legal secretary, legal assistant, or paralegal with experience. Sometimes, that experience is a necessity. Yet, there are other times where experience isn’t everything and you could benefit from training someone to do things the way you really want them to be done.
Hiring Law #2: Write a Thorough Job & Law Firm Description
We’re not saying that your job and law firm description needs to match the length of your Civ Pro textbook. We are saying that you need to provide enough information about the attorney job and your law firm that the reader knows what would be expected of them if they were hired and have a general understanding of the culture of your firm. Remember at the beginning of this article when we stated that if the new hire quits or if an existing attorney quits or, worst case scenario, the new hire quits and an existing attorney also quits? One of the most common reasons new hires quit, regardless of whether they were a lateral hire, has to do with law firm culture. They never felt like they were part of the team. Sometimes, this happens because they didn’t know much about the culture of the law firm until they accept the job.
Writing a thorough job and law firm description that includes information about the culture (read: work environment) is one of the best ways to educate potential applicants on whether they should apply for the attorney position. And be honest. Always remember that your money and your resources are on the line. It is your law firm with something to lose if the hiring process doesn’t work out. Your law firm has to hire again for the attorney job or other law firm job opening. The new hire will just find another job.
In your job description, put in application requirements such as a resume, cover letter, and writing sample. As applicants submit for the open position, separate them out into those who followed the application requirements and those who didn’t. Do not follow up with those who did not read and follow through with the requirements. Trust us, even if you’re in a bind and feel desperate. Don’t hire someone who can’t follow directions. Move on to the next Hiring Law with the applicants who followed directions.
Hiring Law #3: Put the Internet to Work for You
Regardless of which law firm job openings you’re hiring for, you’ll want to do social media research for each potential new attorney hire. No, you do not need to friend each person. A basic search on the popular platforms to look for public posts is enough. Currently, this includes:
- SnapChat (users can have a public feed that can be accessed without adding someone)
Keep in mind that some people may not use their real name on social media. So, you may not find them. If you do find them, just take a quick scroll through any public posts they may have. Ask yourself one question: “Do I want my clients associating this person with my law firm?”
You should also look them up through Google. Make sure that you go to pages two, three, and four. Remember, especially where lawyers are concerned, that fake reviews can and do happen particularly if a former client had unrealistic expectations to begin with. Read carefully. For attorney job openings, check with the bar to make sure that the lawyer you’re considering doesn’t have any bar complaints or active investigations (and that they aren’t currently on probation with the bar). Ensure that their license is active and in good standing. Unfortunately, people can and do lie about their bar license.
For law firm jobs for non-lawyers, look them up on social media as well. Again, you do not need to follow them or send out friend requests. You are looking for public posts. You want to see whether they really would be a good fit for your law firm. Ask yourself the same question: “Do I want my clients associating this person with my law firm?”
We’d like to point something out about social media. You can decide who will be a good addition to your law firm even if they have some things on social media that are not flattering. The legal industry is an industry that is slow to change. We only want you to keep what is in the best overall interest of your clients and your law firm in mind because defending against ethics complaints, even if they are unfounded in your opinion, is an expensive venture and reputations can be difficult to rebuild even if society, as a whole, should be more accepting.
Hiring Law #4: Don’t Rush the Process
We know that it can be overwhelming when you’re understaffed. The rush to fill an attorney job or legal support opening with a warm body is almost too strong to resist. But we beg you to take your time, and don’t fill your law firm openings with just an legal candidate. Please do not rush the process. If you rush the process, you’ll end up with someone who will most likely not be the right fit. And they’ll be miserable. Or you’ll be miserable. Or everyone else in the office will be miserable. They will quit. Others might quit. You’ll be back at square one. You could find that now you have to fill more than one position. Don’t do that to yourself.
Hiring costs your law firm time, money, and resources. Make sure it is all well spent by doing what you can to hire the right attorney the first time. Otherwise, you’ll get to do it again. And then maybe again. And then maybe even again because you’ll be desperate to keep someone in the place.
It makes financial sense to take the right amount of time to find the right attorney. Everyone is better off for it: your new hire, your existing law firm staff, you, and your clients.
Hiring Law #5: Get to Know the Applicants
Whether you’re hiring for entry level attorney jobs or looking for lateral attorneys, get to know your law firm candidates. What are their core values? Do their core values line up with those of the law firm? The law firm stays in business by serving clients. You only have clients by keeping clients happy. It’s important that lawyers and non-lawyers all have core values that align with those of the firm.
You also need to know whether the applicants have the skills and abilities they say they have. If your firm practices family law, watch for signs of professional empathy during the interview. You need lawyers and non-lawyers who know how to connect with clients and make them feel heard. Ensure that potential employees have the required technical skills, such as Office 365 and any legal tech solutions used (unless, of course, you’re open to on the job training).
Hiring Law #6: Engage Applicants During the Interview
Don’t do all of the talking during the interview. It can be hard to get to know someone if you’re doing all of the talking. Ask open-ended questions. Engage applicants during the interview. You could also give them a tour of the law firm. Do they seem confident and friendly? It’s one thing to seem a little shy and nervous since it is an interview. It’s another thing to be cold. Watch for body language cues as well.
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About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
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