No 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.