Editors Note: This article on law firm hiring mistakes was taken from the Management Big Idea section of our February 2018 Insiders’ Journal. Non PILMMA members can purchase a subscription here. If you’re interested in learning Ken Hardison’s system to quickly onboarding new staff hires, click here and register for his May 10th webinar training, “How to Train Your Law Firm’s Staff”.
Getting the right people in your law firm is essential to building a successful law firm. In building my two successful practices, the people I surrounded myself with to help me carry out my mission statement and vision for the law firm were paramount to my success.
I regularly consult on law firms and I’ve found that more than 50% have no clear system in place to hire the right people. Here, I’m going to share with you what I see as the five biggest mistakes lawyers make when trying to hire people to work in their law firm.
Law Firm Hiring Mistake #1: Hiring Too Fast
Most lawyers take a knee-jerk reaction and try to hire somebody to fill a void as soon as possible. They’re so afraid that the work is not going to get done or that their clients are going to be unhappy that they rush through the process and hire the first person that comes along with a halfway decent interview.
This is a fatal mistake.
Even if it takes longer than you want, it’s better to take your time and get the right person who is a good fit for your law firm. In the long run, it’s going to be much cheaper because once you get somebody trained and they leave, it costs at least two to two-and-a-half times their salary to replace them. Why not take your time to begin with and get the right person so that you can retain them? They’ll do a great job for you and your clients.
Law Firm Hiring Mistake #2: Not Properly Vetting Applicants
Far too often, I see firms not properly vetting résumés.
One thing you can do to make sure somebody is serious about the job is to require a cover letter and request them to write why they would be a good fit for your law firm. Once you start receiving résumés, dump all the ones that don’t have a cover letter.
Another way to properly vet applicants is to look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn to make sure they are a good fit for you. You can also ask for writing samples if part of their job is going to include writing. If it’s concerning marketing, ask to see some of that work also. Have them send this in even before you bring them in for an interview.
Law Firm Hiring Mistake #3: Hiring Based on Experience Alone
Most lawyers get hung up on wanting somebody who already has experience as a paralegal or as a lawyer. While this may be helpful, it could also be a hindrance. These people think they already know how to do it and they’re going to do it their way most of the time. The older they are, the harder it is to teach them your way.
One of the keys to building a successful law practice is that everybody systematically does things the same way. You should use the same type of letters, the same forms and the same processes and procedures. What I’ve found over the years is that people who already have a lot of experience with other law firms have picked up very bad habits. This is not to say that people with experience can’t learn new things and can’t adapt. But, basing your hire solely on their experience is a grave mistake.
Law Firm Hiring Mistake #4: Not Hiring People with your Same Core Values
It is very important to hire people that share your own and your law firm’s core values. To do any less is a disservice to your other employees and your clients. If you want to build a culture of empathy and great client service because those are your core values, then you must hire people with those same core values. The key is that if people are going to help you reach your vision and carry out your mission statement, they must have the same core values as you and your law firm.
Law Firm Hiring Mistake #5: Not Testing Applicants
Once you get down to two or three people that you’re very interested in after interviewing, it is essential to do the proper testing. What I mean by this is, you want to do some kind of personality test along with a grammar test and a typing test. The grammar and typing tests you can get online for free.
I’ve learned over the years that people lie about their ability to write and their ability to type.
Before you make this large investment in someone, you should test to make sure that they really can do what they say they can do.
Finally, I personally like the Real Talent hiring test. It tells me a lot about a person’s core values, whether they’re a team player, what’s important to them and what motivates them. I’ve used this test over the past 10 years before I hire anybody in any law firm or at PILMMA. The test is somewhat expensive, but if you look at the cost to replace the employee, it’s actually really cheap.
As you can see, the five mistakes I’ve covered are the ones I most commonly see that can hinder a lawyer or a law firm from getting the superstar staff and lawyers they need to grow their practice.
Remember this: Always hire somebody that’s got a great attitude, empathy and your same core values. We, as injury and disability lawyers, must have people who are empathetic and understand what our clients are going through. To do less is a disservice to our clients. I hope that this has been of some help to you and that you will take more time and more care in selecting your next new team member for your law firm.
Want to learn more?
On Thursday, May 10th, Ken Hardison will be revealing his *new* hiring/management system for getting the most from current employees and new hires on his training, How to Train Your Law Firm’s Staff.
Here’s what you’ll learn on the FREE training:
- The FOUR RULES for managing and training new hires
- How to use manuals and checklists for a completely systematized law firm
- What you must focus on during Days 2-5 with new hires
- How to get new staff to hold themselves accountable
- And much more!