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There’s a simple rule that every law firm needs to follow if you want to build a law firm filled with A team players — and also avoid the headaches and hassles that come from making a bad hire.

The rule is simple:  HIRE SLOW, BUT FIRE FAST!

Although the rule is simple, putting it into practice takes some discipline and willpower – but it’s well worth your time and trouble.

In fact, every time we don’t follow this rule at PILMMA, we always end up regretting it.

Many lawyers really struggle with putting this idea into practice within their firms, and do the opposite. They hold onto employees they should have let go months (or even years) earlier, while quickly hiring employees who don’t work out because they lack the necessary skill set, attitude, or character to thrive in the law firm.



Here’s what we already know: “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.”

This expression is an age-old idiom for a reason. Whether it’s apples or apathetic employees, one “bad” staff member can poison an entire department. Left unattended, or unchecked, they can even spoil an entire firm. Whether it’s bad attitudes, or lack of competency, there are a number of reasons why an employee is not a  good fit for your firm and needs to be fired.

  1. Bad Attitudes: Just as positivity and enthusiasm is contagious, so too is negativity.  Bad attitudes are often insidious.  The sooner you remove negative staff members from your firm, the better. It is a matter of basic Quality Control.  And frankly, it doesn’t matter if they are highly intelligent, a “nice” person, or even if they are skilled in one particular area or not. Your law firm needs team players who are committed to doing their best and helping your firm succeed. Every single staff member and associate must embrace and share your firm’s core values if you want your law firm to be successful.

An example from Ken:

“When I was running my firm, I fired one of my best lawyers. She was law review with a host of solid verdicts and settlements, but she did not return client calls promptly. One of my core values is excellent customer service. I did not want her disrespect of our clients to spill over to the staff or other attorneys. So, after giving this employee several opportunities to correct the problem, I had no choice but to let her go. I have no regrets, and my firm was better for her departure.”

  1. Sub-Par Performance: Sometimes you have employees that simply cannot adequately perform their duties.  Time and again, you discover that they failed to follow your firm’s processes correctly, or failed do so in a timely fashion. Their mistakes are costing you money!

Even if they have great attitudes, their lack of ability is detrimental to the health and productivity of your firm.  Low-performance employees harm your firm in two distinct ways: 1) they lower the bar of expectation and 2)  they create resentment from other employees, as well as unnecessary drama and negativity.

When other staff members see that you are accepting an employee’s repeated mistakes or sub-par work, it sends the message that it is now ok for the rest of the staff to slack up.  The ripple effect is that the bar of expectations is lowered, which is harmful to your entire firm.  Similarly, when one employee fails to perform his or her responsibilities, it means that other more conscientious employees end up picking up the slack. This is unfair, and breeds resentment and discontent in the ranks. Again, the ripple effect damages your entire firm.

When you, as the firm owner, begin to see the writing on the wall about a particular employee, or when your office manager or other staff members bring this issue to your attention, it is important to take action quickly!  You should meet with the employee immediately and lay out your concerns clearly. Give them 30 days in which to correct this behavior and let them know that a failure to do so will result in their termination. Period. The health, wellbeing, and productivity of your firm and your employees is at stake. You are the boss, so the buck stops with you. Don’t be hesitant to fire quickly and decisively when necessary.

You may be reluctant to take this approach for fear that it will leave you in a lurch. But, if you have clear processes and procedures for each staff position, then in most cases other employees can divvy up this individual’s responsibilities during the transition time until a replacement has been hired.  Trust me, most employees are so relieved to see that a bad employee has been let go, that they are happy to pick up the temporary slack until you find a suitable replacement.



The important principle to remember is that you do not want to knee jerk in desperation and hire the first person that looks like they might can handle the job.

There’s a natural temptation to hurry and get someone on board so that the work is getting done.

Resist this temptation.

Studies have shown that hiring the wrong employee can end up costing you 30 to 120 % of their salary in the long run!

Hiring too quickly greatly increases the likelihood that you will hire someone that either lacks the skill set needed, or whose attitude does not mesh with your firm’s culture – both of which result in wasted time, energy and firm resources in clean-up, quality control and more hiring down the road.

Here are some tips to keep in mind in when beginning the hiring process:

  • Take time to conduct necessary background checks. Talk with the candidate’s prior employer(s), and ask them this one important question: Would you rehire this person if given the chance? Too many lawyers skip this step and live to regret it!
  • Give each employee a short proficiency/skill test to ensure they have the skills necessary for the position.
  • Conduct a thorough interview so you can assess whether this prospect will mesh with your firm’s culture and core values.
  • And then, before you pull the trigger, have them take an attitude test, such as the one Jay Henderson does with Real Talent Hiring as well as a Kolbe assessment.

Over the years I have learned the importance of this last step the hard way. Now I NEVER hire any employee who does not score well on Jay’s test. I just won’t. I’ve been burned too many times.  You see, proficiency and knowledge are important, but attitude and aptitude will trump prior knowledge most every time. Taking the necessary time up front to methodically analyze candidates will greatly improve your chances of finding employees that end up being strong team players.

  • Once you have narrowed your potential hires down to just a few, I strongly suggest you bring your other employees into the picture. Have the candidate meet on Zoom with all the other employees that they will work with in their department. Then, take the time to really listen to the feedback you receive from your other employees. By taking the time to do this, you will immediately be setting up a paradigm for greater success. When other employees vote “Yes” to a particular candidate, then they will feel a degree of personal responsibility for that employee’s success.  They will want to validate their choice- and will be much more likely to help your new employee succeed within the firm. It’s a win-win.

If you are serious about building a better and more successful law firm, take this rule to heart:  Hire Slowly, but Fire Quickly.  Although it may feel counterintuitive, this simple rule will help you avoid unnecessary innumerable headaches and hassles — while saving  you time and resources in the long run.