What Are the Causes of a Bad Law Firm Hire

//What Are the Causes of a Bad Law Firm Hire

new-hireNo matter how successful your law firm, having a bad hire experience is inevitable. And while the job candidate is rarely at fault, there are a few key causes of a bad hire.


One of the key reasons a law firm has a bad hire is that major assumptions were made during the recruiting process. Maybe the hiring manager assumed that the candidate understood the responsibilities of the job and they didn’t. Maybe the new hire assumed that the job would provide certain opportunities or experiences when that just wasn’t the truth. When assumptions happen, they are always perceived as facts but that perception can create a lot of hard feelings between parties. To avoid having assumptions ruin your recruiting process, ask the candidate questions about their expectations and their understanding of what the job requires.


Closely related to assumptions, misunderstandings can also lead to bad hires and a lot of conflict. Sometimes the hiring manager may misunderstand what they need for the position. Or, the job candidate may misunderstand what is being promised in terms of compensation and career advancement. To avoid misunderstandings, have a written job description and put your job offer in writing. Also, put in writing any agreements you come to with the job candidate. Misunderstandings are almost never rooted in malice but they can destroy professional relationships if they are not cleared up as soon as possible.


Today’s legal industry is a fast-paced one filled with changes. This also applies to your law firm and to individual lawyers.  Sometimes your circumstances and the requirements of a job can change between the time your hire someone and the time they start the job. Or, the job requirements can change shortly after the new hire begins working. If this happens, you must address it immediately. Having a new hire work in a job that is no longer suited for their skills can create a serious mismatch for our law firm and hurt productivity. And having a new hire take on new responsibilities and tasks without adjusting their compensation level can create resentment and/or drive a good quality associate out the door soon after they arrive. You must carefully monitor newly filled positions so that you can immediately notice when something critical changes that will impact the new hire.

Law Firm Culture

You must understand the culture of your law firm. This can be difficult for new law firms who are rapidly expanding but for more established law firms, it’s possible to develop a law firm culture profile. With a law firm culture profile, you can figure out which candidates will be a good match. New hires who cannot fit into the established law firm culture won’t deliver the results you need. This is why one of the major reasons someone becomes a bad hire is that their personality just doesn’t fit with the law firm culture. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself and any job candidates about the law firm’s culture. For example, if you have a culture that requires long hours and weekend work most of the time, be honest about it. Someone who is interested in spending more time at home with family won’t fit well with this type of time-intensive law firm culture. Some law firms fear that they won’t find the right matches for their culture if that culture is demanding.  But the truth is that many people are looking for demanding work cultures. You just have to find them.

Avoiding bad hires is possible, as long as you seek to understand the unique needs of your law firm and communicate those needs clearly to the job candidates.

By |February 27th, 2018|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.