On average, it takes one to two months to successfully fill a vacant law firm position. Granted, the more relaxed your standards, the quicker you can fill the law firm job—and there are always exceptions. But any legal practice that has made a substandard hire before understands just how costly hasty legal recruitment or rushing the hiring process can be. Whether it is the costs of recruitment and training, the disruption productivity, or the loss of a client, a bad hire can be disastrous to a law firm of any size.
Preventing these issues require a two-pronged approach: hiring the right people, and retaining them. Here are a few steps you should take to check whether you can improve your law firm’s hiring process.
Haste makes waste. Take your time to find the right person.
Simple, but true.
Gone are the days of “lifers” and employees staying with one employer for their entire law career. Across all generations of all industries, talented employees have experienced and observed layoffs, economic downturns, and career uncertainty. This climate decreases the attraction of staying in one position until retirement; instead, it drives employees to secure their income by keeping an eye out for their next opportunity as soon as they land a role.
Take your time during the interview process to go beyond the resume, and ask the right questions. Today’s lawyers value personal growth and development and are always looking for the next chance to build their resumes, enhance their marketability, and law careers. Ask questions to determine personality and cultural fit (Describe your ideal work environment or culture. What keeps you productive?). Do what you can to get a sense of a potential hire’s personality and work ethic.
Develop talent. Invest in training.
Whether you formally or informally onboard your new hire, it is important to get them accustomed to their new firm. An email welcoming them to the team and a breakfast meeting is always nice—but it is more important for you to ensure that they are trained and assimilated. Here, support your veteran employees who you will charge with supporting new hires. Keep in mind that even experienced new hires will also need support (although they might be able to do the job, the need to “catch up” and “get up to speed” in a new place can get in the way of their success). Creating knowledge bases for new hires to find out the little things like document naming conventions, file saving software, or document managing systems can frustrate the most driven new hire (and if you’ve heard this feedback before…consider putting together a procedural manual).
If you do not have a procedure or desk manual, consider taking the time to develop one. This has an added bonus of simplifying the cost of training. Once these resources are in place, consider assigning mentors or “buddies” that new hires can ask “dumb questions” to (e.g., “how does the printer work?”).
Check-in, and stay engaged.
Think about what your employees are looking for. Why were they willing to accept working for you, and why should they want to continue working for you? Once you have worked through some of the major kinks, you will find that one of the main reasons employees leave their current law firm position is to pursue an opportunity to gain more experience or training.
Encourage professional development and skills training for your attorney and non-attorney staff. Supporting and sponsoring employees to join professional and legal associations communicates that you have a vested interest in their professional and career growth. This allows your current employees not only to grow and learn the latest trends but can also enable them to contribute to the advancement of the firm’s business goals.
Recognize and reward good work.
Provide consistent and constructive feedback on a regular basis. Feedback is critical to growth and should be done more than once a year during the annual performance review. If your employees know how he or she is doing, and how he or she needs to do to improve, they will be informed and aware of how they can do better. As a bonus, it also alleviates the stress of a performance evaluation as they have been kept in the loop with how they have been doing.
Also, a little compliment and support can go a long way. Genuine and sincere acknowledgment of good work can make a world of difference, improve morale, and boost productivity.
No one wants to spend their energy working for someone who does not care about them. Genuine concern for your team’s health and well-being is important. Being open to flexible work arrangements for employees to handle family and personal commitments is a way to demonstrate care and your firm’s dedication to offering the best legal jobs in your city. Similarly, permit certain staff members to come in an hour early, leave an hour early, or take a shorter lunch to attend a child’s sporting event or school function or attend a special social event.