Beyond the Resume: What the Hiring Partner Must Consider When Choosing the Right Candidate

RJH Consulting

By: Krystal Champlin

As the leading law firm consultants, we know the importance of often looking beyond the resume when choosing the right candidate for law firm job openings. In our decades of experience of small law firm coaching, we’ve learned that most law firms, regardless of size, fall into two categories: building or maintaining. How your law firm is categorized helps you attract as well as retain top legal talent.

The Building Stage: Growth, Innovation, Moving, & Shaking
During our experience in law firm operations consulting, the building stage is the first stage of law firm establishment. Just as it sounds, it is the stage where the law firm is growing and changing. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are set to measure growth. There are many learning curves both in the actual practice of law as well as on the administrative side of the practice.

When your law firm is in the building stage, you still want to attract top legal talent. Still, it’s imperative to find lawyers and support staff comfortable with the on-going changes that happen during this stage. You need to hire a legal team of innovators who can think on their feet and comfortable with change.

How to hire the right employees at this stage is crucial. According to FastCompany, there are six signs of innovative and collaborative individuals:
  • They have a history of creating and implementing improvements with a team. Check out their resume, but don’t forget to go beyond the resume and ask questions.
  • Listen to the way they talk: do they include the contributions of their teammates or subordinates? If so, this is a sign that they work well with others.
  • They aren’t “job-hoppers.” As a law firm in the building stage, you need top legal talent that is in it for the long haul.
  • Their references speak well of their contributions and innovative nature. It doesn’t matter if their references send letters or you talk with their references on the phone.
  • Their resume speaks to their achievements. Watch for achievements and collaborative events that show they would make a difference during the building stage.
  • They worked in an environment where collaboration and innovation were necessary for the success of the business. Highlighting the required skills to survive and thrive in this stage of a law firm is essential.

Keeping your new innovative law firm employee is the next step. While law firm employee compensation should be competitive, recent studies have shown that pay is not the only reason lawyers and legal staff move on to other opportunities. According to PayScale, employees want to do meaningful work, increased responsibilities, and have a different workplace culture.

In addition to competitive pay, keep your lawyers and legal staff engaged by giving them meaningful roles with the authority they need to complete their job and contribute to building a culture that matters to them.

Are you looking for help to build a sustainable law practice? Schedule your law firm evaluation now.

The Maintaining Stage: Structure & Clearly Moving Toward the Future
After the growth stage comes the maintaining stage for the law firm. The direction of the law firm is established. The goal is to keep moving toward the future. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the firm won’t ever consider any sort of change. Consider all the law firms that had no choice except to change course due to the pandemic. Some law firms added or expanded on practice areas. Reviewing KPIs and undergoing measured change still occurs. However, since the law firm is established, there’s less ambiguity in how and why change occurs. Policies and procedures are established.

Top law firm talent for this environment love structure, stability, and clear direction. They can work well on their own as well as work well as part of a team. If you have a law firm administrator, they should work alongside the hiring attorney to develop a job description that clearly describes the job requirements. During the interview, you should:
  • Listen to how the candidate speaks. Do they use language that shows their commitment to the long-term? Are they able to take the initiative, work on their own, and work as part of a team?
  • Have department members sit on for the interview. This is part of going beyond the resume. Law firm culture is an important part of developing healthy, long-term working relationships. If existing department members think there may be an issue, that may be something worth considering.
  • Follow up on their references. How do their references speak about their commitment to long-term projects?
  • Ask for examples about their ability to work on their own and be a team player. This is crucial because, in a law firm, it’s important that attorneys and legal staff can act on their own and work on a team. It’s also important that everyone follow the established policies and procedures so that all clients are treated fairly.
As mentioned previously, keeping top legal staff does involve competitive wages, but that’s not the only thing that employees want. They want to work for a law firm that they know is making a difference. They want responsibilities they feel matter. They want the authority they need to do their job. Most employees also want the room to grow as professionals.

For law firms in the maintaining stage, the professional development of existing employees is a great strategy. In addition to promoting employee loyalty, which lowers employee turnover, it allows the law firm to continue to utilize employees who already know and understand its KPIs and mission to further its existing success!

Knowing Your Stage Makes All the Difference in Hiring Law Firm Employees
As a law firm, knowing which stage your in makes all the difference when you’re looking to hire law firm employees. RJH Consulting is here to help. With over 60 years of law firm management consulting experience, we can help you determine the stage you’re in and how to prepare for and hire the right employees. We can also assist you in establishing the proper legal operations measures to do what you do best: practice law.

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