To many attorneys, work-life balance sounds like an unrealistic ideal. It’s easy to say that we’re going to take time out for ourselves and our families. We know that we’re more effective and more efficient when we’re clear-headed and stress-free, but that knowledge doesn’t reduce the quantity or urgency of work to be done.
Analyze Your Hiring Process
One of the quickest and surest ways to free up time is to delegate the work that doesn’t require our personal attention, but that’s tough for many attorneys. Delegating responsibility is tough because it goes against our natures. The ability to simultaneously free up your time and grow your business depends upon having the right people in the right positions with the right responsibilities. Unfortunately most professionals don’t know how to recruit, identify and retain those people, and many aren’t even aware that their hiring processes are lacking.
Take a moment and think honestly about the last person you hired: how much time did you invest in making sure that you had the right person? What kind of front-work did you do to identify the characteristics of the employee you were seeking? How much time did you spend with the candidate before you made a decision? How many people in your office met the new employee at the interviewing stage? For most attorneys, the answer to each of those questions is “not enough.” That’s unfortunate, because not only does the attorney with the right people in place have more flexibility to make the best possible use of his or her time, but also because hiring the wrong person is expensive.
The High Cost of Hiring the Wrong Person
Invest the Time and Effort to Make Solid Hiring Decisions
If you’re hiring, you likely have more work on your hands than you and your current staff can handle comfortably, and that means that time is tight. The inclination is to squeeze interviews in between the “real business” of seeing clients and court appearances, often resulting in short-changing the process.
After all, you can’t lighten your workload or start working on a new client matter until there’s someone in place to take on the extra work. The problem is that simply filling the empty slot doesn’t guarantee that the demands on your time will ease up. If you hire the wrong person, those demands may increase as you spend more and more time “managing” your new employee.
So, invest the time in selecting the right employee. Review resumes to find some good-looking candidates, but remember that a resume is a balance sheet without liabilities. The resume is really just a brief introduction to help you pick out some decent prospects.
After selecting a few candidates, start with 15-minute phone screens so you can expose yourself to a broad range of prospects. Talking to a lot of candidates will also help you formulate an idea of what characteristics are important to you. Next, block out an afternoon dedicated to on site interviews. Doing them back-to-back helps you compare one candidate to the next and will free you from other distractions.
Time invested in identifying the person who is uniquely suited to your needs is time well spent and will save you a lot of time, money and aggravation in the long-term.
Know What You’re Looking For
For most employers, “talent search” is a misnomer. Nearly everyone hires on the basis of a job description, and the job requirements relate primarily to education and experience. Think for a moment though about the best employees in your office, and what makes them stand out.
You didn’t just think, “My secretary, Bev, is really proficient in Microsoft Office!” or “My new associate graduated in the top ten percent of his law school class!” More likely, the traits that make someone a superstar employee involve judgment and motivation. And, although there are specific characteristics that may be important for a particular role, you may find that the basic characteristics you’re looking for don’t vary much within your business.
Before you set out to recruit your next employee, make sure that you understand what those characteristics are. In particular, understand which ones you can’t afford to sacrifice. The best place to start that process is to write down the things that make your best employees, past and present, your best employees. The answer to that question may vary from firm to firm, but once you know what “superstar employee” means to your firm, you’ll be ready to hire your next one.
About the Author
Kevin Chern is the Managing Partner of UpRight Law. He has practiced exclusively in the area of consumer protection law for over 20 years. As a Managing Partner of two of the country’s premier consumer bankruptcy law firms, under Mr. Chern’s direction, his firm’s have represented over 75,000 consumers and discharged over a billion dollars in debt. One can follow Kevin on Twitter – @kevinchern.