Written by:

Jane Oxley

Hiring Your Law Firm’s First Employees, Simplified

January 21, 2016

Making the decision to hire your first employee can be difficult and scary for solo attorneys. Hiring support staff and other attorneys should make your practice run smoother, but becoming an employer is not without its headaches. However, with proper planning and foresight, you can make the process of building your team a positive one. This post aims to soothe your anxiety about the next step in your growth by answering common questions law firm founders often face when hiring for the first time.

Who should I hire first?

Before you start writing up job descriptions, it’s important to access your firm’s immediate needs and vision for the future. Would your firm benefit most from a paralegal to help manage administrative odds and ends or are you looking to expand your client base in a way that can only be achieved with another attorney? How will these initial hires fit into your big picture vision for the long-term growth of your firm? Especially in the early phases of building your firm, it’s crucial to determine which types of employees have the most potential to impact your growth and productivity. For each type of hire you’re considering, ask yourself what the new position could contribute to your bottom line and quality of life, and then plan accordingly.

Where will I find talent?

Recruiting talent can be stressful when you’re first starting out, especially if you’re not familiar with human resources best practices. And let’s be real: you went to law school to practice law, not HR, right? But recruiting doesn’t have to be as complex as you might initially imagine.

First, write a job description that clearly outlines your expectations and post on it on the sites you feel will best capture your target talent (we recommend Lawjobs.com and American Bar Association as starting points). Don’t forget to reach out to your networks to share the job description, either. Your former law school classmates or colleagues from your old firm might know someone who would make a perfect candidate for your open role. Then, as you prepare for your first interview, make sure you ask questions that help you understand not only the skills that prospective employees can bring to the table, but also how they will fit into the culture of your small law firm and your vision for the future. If you’re not quite sure what to ask, take a look out at our small law firm interview guide.

What do I need to do after I hire?

When hiring a new employee, your firm should understand new hire guidelines laid out by the United States Department of Labor. Some basic steps you’ll need to follow include obtaining an employer identification number, getting worker’s compensation insurance and setting up payroll.

Once you get through the paperwork, the fun begins! Set up an orientation period during which you’ll provide training on crucial skills and tools, and take time, especially in your new employee’s first weeks, to answer their questions in detail and provide insights on your clients. To make your onboarding process easier, Smokeball’s Onboarding Team (link to Tuesday’s blog post) will train each new employee you hire on how to use Smokeball.

Hiring your first employees is an exciting step for any firm. So take a deep breath, relax and get excited! For more help with hiring, contact Chelsey Lambert at chelsey.lambert@smokeball.com. Happy hiring!

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