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THE PROBLEM: We’re all aware that finding and keeping good attorneys and staff is a challenge. First, there’s typically not enough qualified candidates. Few have the degree of experience you’d like to see. If applicants have the experience you’d like, then they want 50% more than the going rate. Then there’s the problem of other law firms actively poaching the good, experienced staff. And regardless of how great an employee looks on paper or how talented they may be, if they can’t be a team player (or have knack for creating drama) you have a host of headaches just trying to get the work done.

A-TEAM PLAYERS: No great law firm was built on the backs of average employees. You need “A” team players- the kind of people that are talented, committed, and who embrace your firm’s culture.  Look for employees who have 3 key attributes: They are:

1) Hungry to learn

2) People Smart, and

3) Humble.


 Tips for Finding Great “A” Team Players:

  1. Create an Incentive Program which encourages and rewards your present staff when they recommend quality applicants – You can even provide monetary rewards 1) at time of hire, 2) when these employees make it to the 6-month mark, and 3) at the 1-year anniversary.
  2. Go outside your market to find qualified applicants, when the job can be done remotely. Why fish in a pond when you have access to the whole ocean? Your odds of reeling in a great catch increase dramatically.
  3. Consider using LinkedIn’s Recruiter product and Indeed to help you locate qualified candidates.
  4. Consider Hiring Offshore employees. Many law firms are experiencing great success with offshore hires. You can hire them directly or go through an agency that screens the candidates for you (We’ll be talking about this at the 2024 PILMMA Super Summit
  5. Test, Test Test: You need applicants that are qualified, but who will also mesh with the role you need filled and the culture you are building.
    • Attitude/Mindset, and Team-player Capacity: I’ve been using Jay Henderson’s Real Talent Hiring for spot-on testing. Over the years, almost without exception, when I hire someone who doesn’t do well on Jay’s Test, I live to regret it. I’ve also started using the Kolbe test as well, as it provides some great insights into how the candidate approaches work/challenges.
    • Proficiency: Have applicants take both a Typing Test as well as a Grammar Test, both of which are free and easily available online. Ask that they submit samples of their work.
  6. What are they reading: In an interview, always ask applicants what they like to read – this can tell you volumes about the applicant.
  7. Core Values: Always ask applicants some questions designed to see if their core values mesh with the ones you want to foster in your firm. Pose a few hypotheticals and ask them for their thoughts and feedback.

Tips for Retaining Great “A” Team Players:

Retention of quality employees and attorneys is a universal challenge in many law firms – Here are some tips to help you keep the great employees you hire.

  1. Give Your Employees Appreciation and Affirmation – When you see them performing in a way that exemplifies excellent client service, or support teamwork, or self-initiative – or whatever core values you want to encourage in your firm, make a point of calling this behavior out.  We all want to know that we are seen, valued and appreciated. Public recognition – at weekly or monthly staff meetings or your firm’s interoffice newsletter, bulletin board, etc., validates your star employee’s behavior, and increases the likelihood that others will follow suit.
  2. Their Goals – Take the time to find out what your A team players’ individual goals are and help them get there. If you take the time and energy to invest in them, they are much more likely to continue to invest in your firm.
  3. Commit to creating a law firm culture of Transparency, Respect and Professionalism. Strong companies have strong cultures – this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional thought, effort and nurturing to create and solidify a robust firm culture. Make time to identify your firm’s core values.  Preach them. Teach them. Applaud your staff when they demonstrate them.
  4. Take one employee out to lunch each week and get to know who they are. Show an interest in them, their dreams and their goals for the future. Millennials and Gen. Z’s want real relationships, and the recognition of themselves as significant individuals who bring value to the table.
  5. Keep the lines of communication always open between yourself and your employees and attorneys.
    • Create an Employee Suggestion box – in my firms I kept such a box visible and accessible at all times. I routinely encouraged all employees to submit their ideas about how we could do one of 2 key things- 1) save money or 2) make money. I was always surprised at how many great suggestions I received and was able to implement for the betterment of the firm.  And trust me, employees loved seeing that I valued their ideas enough to recognize them and put them to use.  Employees feel incredibly vested when they see that their ideas are sought after, valued, and when applicable, applied to change firm policies or procedures.
    • Conduct Daily Huddle Meetings with your Department Heads, and make sure they conduct meetings with their individual teams. When possible, hold firm-wide meetings at least quarterly- to solidify goals, objectives, core values, and quarterly projects. Communication is critical to creating a team and then keeping that team all working together to propel your firm forward.
  6. Do Something Big Once or Twice a Year for Your Whole Firm

When I was practicing law, I hosted huge Christmas parties and pulled out all the stops – hired a band, entertainment for children, etc. I also made it a point to take all of my attorneys out to dinner at least once a month.  One of our Members takes his entire firm on a Caribbean vacation if they meet or exceed the yearly goals they’ve set for the law firm.

  1. Take the whole firm to a local ball game
  2. Host a firm-wide picnic- have face painting + games for the children and a band for the adults. Go big to show your staff how much you appreciate them!
  3. Put your Money where Your Mouth is– If you want quality “A “Team players to stick around, you need to pay them a salary commensurate with their skills. In fact, if you really want to keep them, then pay them 10 to 30% MORE than your “B” Players. Believe me- it’s a huge incentive for the A players to keep up their game- doing the work of 2-3 B players, and it is also a huge motivator for B players to try harder.
  4. Training and Onboarding: New Hires: Set your new employees on the path to success by making sure you create Killer Training and Onboarding systems. You can’t expect even the most talented new hires to perform well if they don’t have clear expectations as to what they need to do and how it needs to be done.

It isn’t easy to find “A” Team Players, but it is worth the time – I’ve always tried to adhere to this adage: Fire Fast but Hire Slow.  A bad employee can be toxic to your entire firm, while A players will help you achieve the next level of success you are striving for. Implement these tips for Finding and Retaining the Star employees you need to build a better law firm and experience greater growth and success.

You might also like: 7 Sticking Points Keeping You and Your Law Firm from Getting to the Next Level, with Ken Hardison