03.04 - How to Hire Great Attorneys to Work in Your Law Firm, Company, or Organization (Part 1)
[00:00:00] Okay. I mean, or afternoon and it gets started. So this webinar today is about a couple of different things. It's about the it's about the first aspect of a, kind of a six prong test of following attorneys. Of how to hire attorneys that we've been following here for quite a, quite a long time.
And I typically give a webinar every week for and I have been for a long time for attorneys and, and I'd like to do you know, going forward, do the same thing for law firms and legal employers each week as well. And, and the reason is it because there's just a. There's there's, there's a lot of information out there and but not a lot of it has really been you know, consolidated and, and talk to people.
And so obviously, a law firm, your competitive advantages. The type of people you hire. And I see law firms making mistakes all the time, because I'm talking to both candidates and law firms all day. And I've been doing it for 20 years and our recruiters have as well. And so this is [00:01:00] sort of a.
No a webinar and an opportunity to, to learn about this. And then typically the way these webinars go is we'll present a topic. And then as I'm presenting the topic, if people have questions at the end, I would typically take questions. When we do these for candidates, sometimes they go as long as four or five hours.
I don't anticipate this one going that long. The webinar itself phone call that long, but then you know, as many questions as people have I will answer them and stick around So there's really kind of four things that people need to understand our law firms need to understand when you're trying to hire for a legal job.
And the first one is, can you do the job, which is what I'm going to talk about today. And then the other three, I will talk about one each week. The next week. The second one is, can you be managed? Meaning will you do assignments and follow directions and so forth and do things the way they want.
Well, the, you know, the law firm wants you to and then the next one, after that as well, can you be able to do the job long-term which means are you going to stick around? Is it likely [00:02:00] that you'll stick around on the job or are you the kind of person that's that's going to leave, and obviously you want to be able to hire for longevity and for people to stick around because of the, they don't then you know, then those are replacement costs and that costs money, obviously.
And then the fourth one is if the person really wants the job and you want to hire people that want to work there. And many times law firms will hire people that don't want to work there. And if they don't want to work there, they're just going to leave. And then there's a couple other questions that people tend to ask and that's whether or not you really, you liked the attorney and kind of an offshoot of that is whether or not they're a cultural fit.
So this one today, I'm going to talk about the first one, which is, can they do the job, which is really for most employers, the, the, the one that they pay attention to the most closely. But it's also in my opinion, one that has where you can make a lot of mistakes and where a lot of stuff can go wrong.
In terms of the decisions you make when you're Hiring people. And this is something by the way that even [00:03:00] recruiters in our company that have been here, you know, five, 10 years struggle with on an ongoing basis in terms of how these sorts of matches are made for people that are likely to be able to do and not do the job.
Okay. So typically what happens when an employer is interviewing people is you need to understand whether or not the person could do the job that the law that the employer is hired for. And this is very difficult because it, it can really vary from firm to firm. And and here's some examples of types of people that You know always, you know, you can decide who, who can not do the job.
So one of the things that's important obviously is the internet intellectual ability compared to the sophistication of the work and the types of clients and so forth that the attorney is going to be working with. And in most law firms, especially large law firms hire based on who seems like they're going to be the smartest for a particular job.
So they want [00:04:00] attorneys from the best law schools and with the best grades. And and honestly, I mean, different types of attorneys are going to perform differently in different types of environments. And this is something that most employers kind of understand instinctively. So an example is you know, They look at things like the law school they went to and how well they did there.
You look at the quality of the attorneys past employers. You'll look at the practice area that they're in how long the attorney's been employed in various employers resume gaps. And in, and basically make a decision of whether or not the attorney is good enough. And then the final thing is kind of the ability you know, to generate business if that's the person's at a partner level or close to it.
So the first one which most people in the recruiting industry, everyone is familiar with as a quality to the law school and the attorney's performance there. So attorneys, when, when you're hiring attorneys based on a law school the person [00:05:00] may be. Over or under qualified for the job. So sometimes you know, in terms of the law school performance attorneys may hire under qualified or overqualified attorneys, and these can both be fairly significant mistakes.
So if you hire a under-qualified attorney yeah.
Sorry, there's some work going out somebody's office. But sometimes you law firms will hire under-qualified attorneys. And what that means is, you know, someone that really doesn't have the intellectual You know, ability to keep up with the work that's going on or the attorneys that are kind of around them.
So if you hire someone who's intellectually unqualified, which a lot of luck times law firms do then the more qualified attorneys are probably most often going to run circles around them in terms of insight. They may avoid working with them and the. But pretty much you know, the attorney will be kind of cast out and won't do well.
And also it doesn't look good if you're a very, she just from, and [00:06:00] you're hiring people. I don't have a good legal backgrounds. It's not going to look at declines and You know, the people are going to inconsequential assignments and it's just not you know, a good, a good longterm idea. So here's just a few mistakes that I've seen law firms make.
I want saw top law firm where I work. They hired a graduate that was from you know barely accredited law school. In the middle of the class, because the client was a significant player in the firm. And he literally could not understand most of the issues. People wouldn't give him work and and he couldn't do the job.
And so that was obviously it didn't work. And that is something that is not that common, but it does happen. And another firm that I you know, that I've seen this actually happen a couple of times hired an LLM from a foreign country who graduated from Harvard law school and the attorney had some difficulties understanding the differences between case law and civil law.
I've also seen law firms hire especially during kind of the internet, boom. It was just 1998 to [00:07:00] 2000 lots of attorneys who were you know, not good students from third tier law schools, because there was a real demand for corporate attorneys and most of those attorneys couldn't keep up.
So that. That's just kinda what happens and, and typically doesn't work out. So most law firms, obviously your brand is going to be detect dependent on the types of attorneys that you hired and it makes a big difference. And and, and also it's part of the culture of most firms law firms and the attorneys there tend to be comfortable with the sorts of attorneys that they, that are working there.
And so they want to have people that are like them. And and if attorney doesn't have necessarily the intellectual fire power and drive to compete they're just going to be unhappy. And most of them are going to leave on their own. So it, you do need to hire people that are able to keep up and that have the drive and kind of a historical record of achievement for your firm.
If you're a high level firm, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you need those kinds of people at every firm or depending on the kind of work, but[00:08:00] in most cases that's important. And the other thing that a lot of law firms do, and this is actually a much bigger mistake than hiring attorneys that are under-qualified.
When the law firm hires an overqualified attorney, what tends to happen is that attorney will often believe that. The work that they're doing, isn't important enough and they'll almost always leave many times. They can really talk the way into getting positions, but they'll feel like the compensation they're getting paid is not enough to feel like the brand's not good enough.
They may can complain about the quality of the work and the responsibility level. And these sorts of attorneys literally, I mean, I see them applying every day to work with our firm and and, and they they rarely stick around and hear just some recent mistakes that I've seen. I've seen, I see lots of mid-size firms hire you know, people that can't get jobs when there's major slowdowns and major markets.
So they may be like an Ivy edgy Ivy league educated corporate attorney from, you know, New York from when there's a big slowdown. And. In, in the attorneys at the [00:09:00] midsize farm may not be you know, is, is good. You know, as, as in the larger firms and those attorneys will almost always leave when the work picks up and they'll complain and they'll be unhappy and they'll kind of undermine your morale.
The other thing that happens is No, if a small lot offered with attorneys from, you know, local law schools may hire you know, someone that didn't get a job when they were in, on campus interviewing this happens a lot. Cause there's always people, even from the top top law schools that don't get jobs and.
That attorney will almost always leave as well. So it's, it's something that you need to avoid at your you know, in your lateral hiring and also something many times you need to avoid and hiring new attorneys. And that's not always the case, but for the most part, when you hire overqualified attorneys many times they're going to leave and I, I see law firms make these mistakes all the time.
I see them always You know, hire overqualified attorneys that won't stick around. I see. Them hire under-qualified attorneys. And[00:10:00] and, but at the same time, most attorneys try to you know, work at the best law firms they can, and they don't all do that, but they do. So if you're hiring attorneys that you believe can work in a much better firm, you're really gonna have to have those kind of have to be some very convincing reasons for them to stay there.
You know instead of moving because in my experience most partners and most associates are always kind of in the market to some extent looking for better opportunities. So I would say the number is actually over 50%. So if I call someone with a better opportunity they're almost always going to be interested in something better, not always, but you know, more than half that.
So You know, so you can tell the quality of a attorney's intellectual ability to some extent you know, by their law school, their performance there. But th the better way of doing that in my opinion is the quality of the the employer, the attorneys coming from. And that to me is really the best way to tell if someone can do the job because different.
Law [00:11:00] firms and different employers have different standards. And all law school shows is the person's kind of ability to do well in college and whatever they majored in and then do well on standardized tasks and then do well in law school. But people can become good attorneys at different speeds.
And so That gets into a very good law firm and moves to even a better one and stays there a long time is, is in my opinion, a much better gauge of the quality of the attorney that you're hiring. And I think that it's something that, you know, the best law firms kind of understand this instinctively as well.
Pam, they actually believe it's more important. I think then law school and even law school performance to some extent. So if someone has significant experience with the top legal employer most often means they can do the job and and you know, people that do well and great law schools can still be horrible attorneys.
And it really has very little to do with just taking law school exams and so forth. You know, the. The the [00:12:00] most important component in my opinion is how long people remain in employers because most legal employers will push people out or the people will leave if they're not kind of up to par with what the off-farm is, is expecting of them.
And so if you have somebody that's been in a bear, a good legal employer for three or four years or longer the odds are that they're going to be pretty good at their job, especially if we know who the, who they're been working with and so forth. So I tend to think that that in my opinion is absolutely it almost doesn't matter where they went to law school at that point, a bit, bit of a good firm in your practice area for several years.
And. The problem with hiring people from kind of inferior legal employers, which law firms do also from time to time is that they may not be able to do the job. They may have developed a work, work habits and so forth that are not necessarily going to help you. Those work habits may make them a little bit sloppy.
They may make them you know, Reach conclusions more quickly [00:13:00] than than a major firm would you know, with the same matters. And they may have developed processes where they're not as thorough and, and, and so forth and where they where they cut corners and, and all sorts of things. And that's not to say that all in fear, illegal players are like that, but.
What people in the market's paying for when it comes to clients is they're paying for, you know, the higher billing firms, you know, the kind of standards you're getting. And for the most part and inferior employers, you don't necessarily know that as well. So that's why you really need to look at the quality of the legal employer that the person's coming from.
And many cases you may want to investigate it because just because you haven't heard of a firm doesn't mean. That it's not a good firm. So you should look at the attorneys there where they worked and so forth. And the problem is though, is that many smaller, less prestigious employers can be under a lot of pressure to do work quickly.
And I would low budgets and and attorneys just over time, we'll pick up those bad habits. And almost that breaking those bad habits [00:14:00] is can, can be very, very difficult. And and, and, you know, if you're in a major market and you hire people from a smaller market there could be much different quality standards in terms of what's expected.
So you know, th you're better attorneys, not always, but you're better attorneys are going to come from in most cases in terms of their thoroughness will come from you know, larger markets and Or larger firms. And if you're talking about you know, certain types of work and because of the detail and the smaller markets th they also can be very good attorneys as well, but typically the larger clients that they're working on the more time.
That they can put into the work and the different types of habits they'll have. And so you may not want attorneys like that, that, that put in all that time as well. You may want people that can get work out the door very quickly. So you have to kind of understand what type of legal employer you are.
And then also what type of employer, what type of business you want to run as an attorney, depending on the type of attorney you're hiring and.[00:15:00] And then the other thing that's very important is the person's experience in a practice area. So law firms all the time you know, th th the best law firms tend to be very specialized.
So they have people that do only one thing and often one thing in, within one practice area. And and many times in smaller law firms as well, they have people that do multiple things. And so they're not saying one's better than the other, but most of the time, if you're Harding attorney for a specialist role, the more experienced that attorney has in that actual practice area.
And the longer that experience the more suitable they're going to be offered the position. So all the time at our company, like we have like litigators and they may have, you know, done seven or eight different types of litigation. And that's not necessarily the most marketable person, the most marketable person for us as someone that may have done one type of litigation.
So. You know, believe it or not a medical malpractice litigators, probably much more marketable a medical malpractice litigator that may not necessarily have gone to a [00:16:00] great law school or anything is going to be a much more marketable than you know, a general commercial litigator that went to a top.
10 or 20 loss call because they're much more specialized same thing with workers' compensation and other things. So, you know, the more, the more experienced an attorney has in a specific practice area or sub practice area within a practice area like litigation the better, the more suitable they may be for your openings, if you, if you are looking for specialist and because they're committed to it.
And and many times people try to. Good jobs in practice areas where they don't have the experience. And other times they try to fit in you know, to practice areas and so forth where or law firms try to fit them in where the person doesn't necessarily belong. So one of the strangest things that I see law firms do, I, I certainly I've tried and placing the attorneys to do this before, but it's, I don't think it's a good idea is try to hire people who are trying to switch practice here.
So anytime. A practice here. It gets very popular. So [00:17:00] right now an example would be like data. Privacy is very popular. Everybody's trying to switch into data privacy. And other points in time, things like corporate admin, very popular, and then people will try to switch from litigation and to corporate.
And anytime someone tries to switch practice areas that's generally just a sign that the attorney just doesn't like practicing law or isn't doing well or something you know, and and they're probably gonna leave. As you know, probably going to leave after the decide, they just don't like practicing law and they switched practice areas with you.
And you're, you're almost always better off hiring someone that just has experience in the specific practice area. So you know, someone that. You know, if you're looking for like a capital market securities attorney, you're, you're almost always going to be better off hiring someone that does only that than someone that may be doing general corporate mergers and acquisitions and litigation from a generalist firm because someone who's a specialist, not only.
Understands the market better and, and more depth, but it's more likely to be committed to it. And [00:18:00] it's just smart hiring people that are committed to a practice area rather than people that aren't and for smaller firms, obviously you may want a more generalist person but and that may actually be better suited to you as well.
So You know and then the other thing to understand too, is when you're hiring for a practice area, you need to also look beyond a lot of different things for like the person's skill. So I once worked with a small law firm and they hired a a litigator from you know, a major. You know, top law firm and that person who never been to court and when the person got there, they were expected to go to court and take that positions and and do all sorts of things.
And, and that level of bookish ness was suited to a large firm, but that attorney was ejected from that smaller firm, like a virus. I mean, he just couldn't do the job. And and that's very common. So, you know, you have to decide, you know, just because someone is litigated doesn't mean they're going to fit in, in your firm or a corporate attorney.
It doesn't mean they're going to fit in your firm. I see things all the time, for example, with you know, corporate attorneys that come out of firms, like, you [00:19:00] know, say Sullivan and Cromwell, and then wind up trying to work at you know, firms in the Bay area where they might not have as much responsibility as they were given on deals when they were working Sullivan and Chrome on New York and they are very unhappy.
So you have to understand how that experience translates and And, and, and that's very important. Yeah. You know, and every practice area has specific requirements. You need to understand you know, that as well. And the final kind of thing that I think is very, very important. And, and this is really when, when you're evaluating, who's going to be a good hire, especially laterally.
This in, in my experience is the number one test and it's, you know, when you're trying to hire someone, it's always, you know, how long had they stayed at their previous employer and why are they looking for a job? So is part of my position. I work with a lot of people. I also coach partners inside of law firms about their careers and, and, and even professionally [00:20:00] coach them.
And and I noticed that, you know, if somebody leaves their job every two years a partner, the odds are they're going to leave their next job in two years to same thing with associates. And and it's just. Everybody. If he, if you see, you know, one moves probably. Okay. Once in awhile like every couple of years or maybe one or two years in your practice, but people that move a lot, there's there's usually that that's not a good sign and even a couple moves.
This is in the short period of time because some people. You are able to get along wherever they go and others aren't. And some people, you know, figure out the rules and how to get along and others don't. And some people are leaving because simply because they're not doing good work or you don't know, or they may not want to practice law, they think that, you know, and so if people aren't staying at their employers a long time that's that it doesn't, they don't have very good reasons for leaving.
Then they probably can't do the job. So. The first two recruiters are hired at BCG. It was very interesting to me. This has been a [00:21:00] definite learning experience doing this for the past 20 plus years, but I've had a lot of people as you know, working in recruiting capacity here. And you can imagine that in, in this particular role you get a lot of people that come in and they're, they want to try something besides practicing law.
So they do this and they may not necessarily you know you know, Bead fat. And so they'll stay, you know, a year or two years, not very long, and then they'll do something else. And but in the first two people I hired one of them had been our previous employer for six years and she stayed here eight years.
And the second one had been in our previous, previous employer for 13 years. And she stayed here for 16 years. And during that time You know, I, I don't know what the number was, but probably you know, 30, 50 people you know, had come and gone that had all been at their previous legal employers for a year or two.
And they all left too. They all left within a year or two and they went somewhere else. In most cases left a year or two as well. So anytime you see stability in someone's background, whether [00:22:00] it's an employment before law school you know, and, and you see signs of a lot of stability, then that's actually very smart because those people are going to work out.
They're going to play by the rules and they're going to figure out what it takes to succeed in your law firm. And I love, I think this is honestly th the most important You know thing to really keep in mind when you're hiring. And so the other thing about being able to do the job is whether or not the attorney is going to be able to you know, do the things that are required of you.
And to some extent, this relates to management, which I'm going to talk about next week. But you know, every You know, attorneys when they leave firms they always give all sorts of reasons for leaving. They'll say things like, you know, I had to work in groups you know, there's certain firms like, you know, Paul Hastings, for example you know, used to, you know, they have these groups where people would work and other firms expect you to work independently.
Other firms may expect you to work with someone who's extremely difficult. You know, other practice here, other firms, smaller firms, or even larger firms sometimes [00:23:00] require you to work in multiple practice areas. Some law firms have extremely long hours. And so depending on the firm there's going to be different requirements and there's traveling there's FaceTime there's entertainment, there's you know, business they're supervising or not supervising you know, writing during projects, weekends and secretarial work or not and socializing and You know, and then there's you know, things like working with social objectionable clients tolerating negative press about the firm, which in some firms was just a lot of negative press there's you know, never being able to make partner and not having really any chance of that at a firm there's below market compensation performance reviews, not performance reviews, benefits You know, branch offices.
And I mean, I could go on and on you know, working for one client and and these are all reasons that people have told him that they were leaving their firms and just the past several months. So if you look at these reasons, I mean, there's just so many of them that I just literally wrote down what came to mind.
And I, and I, when I wrote this down, it took me [00:24:00] about five minutes and I was just thinking of, you know, recent conversation. Someone said they had to work weekends sometimes and they had to do. You know, secretarial work and it's just so people will leave a firm and, and 'cause, they'll, they'll find reasons that they don't like your farm.
And and sometimes, you know you know you know, or or just, you know, things that aren't good. So you know, so that's, you know, you, you really need to understand you know, that those questions, whether or not those are things that, you know, the attorney can, can do. And so if the attorney starts talking about, you know, things about.
Oh, you know why they're leaving their existing firm and they bring up some of those sorts of things. And those are requirements of your job. Then that's probably going to be the type of attorney. You know, that that may you know, not be able to do your job. Another way that I think is very good to ask at interviews.
And these are just some, you know, some questions and suggestions that I have, but asking the attorney how busy they are. I've had a lot of instances where I've worked with [00:25:00] attorneys and and, and they've been interviewing with firms and I haven't asked them this question and they may get far along with the firm and then the firm just kinda senses there's something off or something wrong, and they're not making an offer.
And then I, and then I asked him this question and the attorney comes back and they say, yes, I'm not busy. I'm not going to work. There's, it's so hard to get work at this farm and all this sort of thing. So so asking an attorney how busy they are is really one of the most important things. You can do regardless of what type of recruiting role you're in.
You know, if you're a hiring partner, you're. You know, in the recruiter, whatever your recruiting position is, but once you ask that information typically that's going to give you a very good insight into how well the attorney's doing at their existing firm and how good they are, because Know, this is just a very good way to understand the quality of work and the motivation of attorney and you know, and most partners, there's all, almost every partner has you know, a law firm has partners that are busy and that have a lot of work.
And and so, you know, if your firm has [00:26:00] You know, a lot of work. I mean, if it doesn't, if the person doesn't have a lot of work, then they're probably not you know, the best partner in that firm and, or the best associate or whatever their, their job is. And the best attorneys are also very good at generating work.
So it's an important job at every firm for for an attorney to be very good at kind of generating work and and able to do that. And You know, so that's, that's another important point. And and beginning work is translates later into how good the person is. We're getting work with clients.
So if an attorney is complaining that there's not a lot of work in their firm which they do and there's nothing wrong with that. But then they should be saying, there's not a lot of work, but I'm doing all this stuff. I'm writing an article, giving presentations. Trying to generate clients.
And so there should be a level of internal motivation even with, you know, first years and that sort of thing that shows that they're just really committed to the profession. They should be busy, they should be trying to get work. They should be offering to work on things. [00:27:00] And and the people that are the best are always going to be the busiest.
They're going to figure out how to you know, benefit. The group the most. And so asking them if there's enough work, even if the firm doesn't have any work, which generally is not the case. You know, then then, then we'll do that. People wait around for work. They're typically not good hires. So attorneys who don't, you know, that say there's not a lot of work.
Aren't don't have the ability to create work and they need to be able to create work attorneys who are doing bad work are given work. You know, so there's, there's just a lot of problems with attorneys that upset people are unable to get along with. People don't have a lot of work. So you actually want to know it it's important to know how much work the person has and the busiest attorneys are always the best attorneys.
So that's just something to keep in mind. And a very good question to understand if someone could do the job at your firm and it's very difficult. I mean, there's no other way really to. Understand you know, how smart the person is and how good they are on the office. Other than that question, because there's certainly no other way to [00:28:00] do it.
There's the, how long the person has been at the firm. There's you know, which I told you about earlier, there's a, their commitment to their practice here. There's whether or not they switch jobs and so forth, but asking if they have a lot of work is another good way. Another question that's good to ask is what partners are working for.
So if you review the partners on a law firms website, or, you know who they are the people that are working with the best partners are typically doing the best work. So and others may not be trying to work with those partners. And so they may only be working with senior associates and so forth our counsel.
And and, and, you know, that's not always the best sign, not depends on the quality of the firm and the size of the firm and so forth. But if you can understand who the person's working for, that can also give you a lot of insight. So. When I'm talking to associates and partners, even I'll ask them who they're working for or work doing most of their work with.
And once I get that information it gives me a lot of insight into the quality of the attorney. And that's something that I can use to market the person and make them look more attractive.[00:29:00] And then you should also ask them what partners they've worked with in the past. And and so that's another important.
Thanks. So, you know, and then how long they work with that partner and you know, and then they'll, they'll the best attorneys will typically be very enthusiastic about the partners that they've worked with and and, and love talking about that. So that's another sign that the attorneys probably very good.
And the, the thing is, is that a lot of times You know, you'll get these answers. The attorney will say something like you know, I've just been doing a lot of small assignments. I'm doing this memo. You know, and, and, and I've worked for this person and this person, but I haven't worked anybody for a long period of time.
That right there probably tells you that the person's not doing good work, because if they weren't doing good work one person would be given a Mark over a long period of time or a couple people what in for doing discrete assignments. That's not a good thing. Another good question to ask is, you know, what are you working on?
So the best attorneys are typically going to be, you know, working on the biggest cases in their firm and they're going to be very enthusiastic about it. And they'll be working on the, you [00:30:00] know, or the biggest transactions or whatever it is, and the PR firms going to put them on that because it wants to put their best people on it.
So that's another way to tell that. So if you ask an attorney, for example what are you working on? And, you know, the firm has a lot of important matters. You know, and then they tell you about very insignificant things are doing. That's going to tell you probably that their issues, I may not be with poly the work.
It could be their personality, you know, now. But you know, that's not good. I was talking to an attorney once that looked like a very good litigator had gone to a very good law school. And I had worked at a very good firm, but they had taken him off of all of the normal litigation firm was doing and had him just Sue clients for unpaid bills.
So that, that was not a good sign. You know, if a senior attorney's telling you, they're doing only discovery you know, and that's not a good sign. So you can kind of tell where these sorts of questions you know, and then I've seen very good attorneys. I saw one woman that was second year associate at a huge law firm.
I don't remember what it was. It was a [00:31:00] Sidley or something, you know, very good law firm and and she was, you know, doing trials. You know, she, I think she was on her second trial. They were giving her trial Stu I mean, it was just incredible you know, fourth year associate telling her the lead associated IPO, like all those sorts of things.
If someone's given you a lot of responsibility and they're getting a lot of responsibility in a very competitive environment, that's typically a very good attorney. And law firms, you know, give attorneys work. Based on their perception of the quality of the attorney and how good they are. And you know, and, and, and that's something that a lot of times people ignore and all these questions, by the way.
One of the mistakes that I think that a lot of law firms make is they, they. They want to hire someone. So there's a demand to bring someone in because you're losing money. If you don't have the work being done or you like someone or you like their qualifications, but when you start asking these questions, you can very quickly understand who's good and who's not.
And and, and it's, and, and, and really kind of figure out who's going to [00:32:00] do well in your firm. And Yeah, very quickly. And it depends on your firm of course, but if the person should be there and they're the quality of attorney that you normally hire you just need to be very careful hiring laterals because you don't want to make a decision where you hire the wrong person.
And because it's expensive, it's expensive because. The wrong person can you know, not be productive, they can undermine morale and the partners won't give them work. It creates human resources, headaches. It's it's, it undermines the morale, but existing attorney. So I mean the role of HR and hiring people, I mean, there's nothing really more important than understanding all this and because it really sets the whole direction of the firm and the longer I've been doing this, the more I see how.
Important you know, the, the HR role is making these decisions because it affects the whole firm and its success. Another question that's important is what you think you can improve on. So we, you know, lawyers you know, are asked that [00:33:00] question and you know, the. Based on what they say.
You can often tell how good the attorney is. So so some bad answers I heard one attorney was asked to leave a very prestigious firm. And I asked him, you know, well, what do you think you could do differently? And he said, I need to have paralegals and legal secretaries proofread my work more.
I make too many errors and that's not, obviously not a good answer because he should be doing that. And And, and he's the attorney. So, you know, that's, that was a bad answer. And then I also heard someone, you know, with very low hours, I should be better at asking for assignments. My hours are low, so it's not just about asking for assignments.
People should want to give you work. And so that's. You know a bad answer to what you think you can improve on. And the best answers are things like, you know, when our attorney talks about wanting to do more visits development, or they want to improve their ability to take depositions or run their own transactions, those are very good signs.
You know, if you see people like that and anything that shows that they're trying to improve and get better in a [00:34:00] way that that makes them look good and. You know, even the many times the best attorneys that I speak to do stuff like they are, they talk about. I noticed his, by the way, for lots of the partners that that have a ton of business, I mean, I've always noticed you know, partners with big books of business, even though they have these big books and business, they'll always talk about all these books they're reading.
No, these outside courses, they're taking things or listening to. And those types of attorneys that are growing tend to take their jobs very seriously. And it shows a willingness to improve and seek greater challenges and so forth. And some people. Never stopped growing and other people do some people stop growing right when they get out of law school or even when they get into law school to some extent.
So another good question that can tell you the quality of the attorney is what do you like most about what you're doing? So I think you know, that, you know, statements like I love learning You know, that shown enthusiasm and growth and improvement are also good. I like finding [00:35:00] solutions.
Other people don't see you know, contracts and, you know finding new ways to do things and protect my client. Those sorts of statements really bring out and show you who the best attorneys are then, you know, unfortunately, most of the attorneys, a lot of them that you interview will, will give bland answers and they'll show kind of a lack.
You know, the practice here and enthusiasm. And the problem with that is, is that, you know, your firm and its direction is going to be shaped by the quality of your hires. So if you hire a bunch of people that are kind of bland and Lucy astic, that's going to be the culture of your firm, and that's going to be how your clients are served.
And if you hire other types of people, they're going to inspire the people around them. And it's going to be a very good investment. And then the other one is, you know, what clients you're working for. So, you know, most law firms will talk about who their clients are on their website. So it's very easy to find that information out.
And most law firms have top clients and there's less significant clients. And so if an attorney's working with your law, firm's biggest client, their law firms, biggest [00:36:00] clients, and has a lot of responsibility. The odds are they're doing good work and, and that's important. If they're working on less significant matters than the opposites off at true.
So you know, so that's just something to keep alive you know, so ask them what clients they're working in. And so all these things, you know, if you ask all these questions, you immediately can understand the pecking order, the attorney within the law firm. And once you understand their pecking order within the law firm then you know, you're going to be much better suited to decide who you know, is the right person to tie, you know, the person to get attorney there.
Another question you can ask is, have you done any work in your practice area? I'm sorry. Have you done any Outside work in your practice area and you know, attorneys that are interested in what they're doing. We'll take all sorts of outside courses. They'll write articles. Many will teach class in night, school CLE and all sorts of things to contribute their enthusiasm for the market.
So, you know, if you think about. You know, how to, how to find people that really like what they're doing. You know, they talk about things like that, then they're going to really like what they're doing. So [00:37:00] you want to hire people like that. You want to hire people that are enthusiasm, enthusiastic. So those are the kind of people that are going to bring in clients or impress clients and really provide a good service.
You know, based for your firm in the future. Another question you can ask is how confident do you feel about your ability to do this job based on what you know about it. So, you know, you may, they may know something about the job and and, and this really is a good question as well because the, the attorney's confidence in their work will come through.
So, you know, attorneys. You know, have all sorts of challenges that they, they, you know, they experienced daily, even the most experienced attorney does not have complete confidence in every situation. And and, and the most confident in attorneys will typically. You know, and the best attorneys will always ask for help when necessary.
So, you know, th th you know, they'll gather information, we'll figure out the answers. They'll look at all sides of the equation and so forth. So and then many times other attorneys will just kind of sponsor, you know, spout off a [00:38:00] job, answer that they can do anything and so forth. And and that's not always.
You know the, the best type of best thing to, to, to think, you know, to do so. You need to hire people that you know, are able th you know, do have confidence, and then a lack of confidence just means, you know, that you know, maybe they're, they're afraid of doing certain assignments are afraid of doing certain things.
You know, I've seen You know, people that are afraid to, you know, take depositions or people that are afraid to go to court or people that are afraid to talk to clients or, you know, or you know, be involved in certain parts of transactions. And that's just not good. Those are not the kind of people you know, that you want to hire.
And then another one is references. So, you know, it's funny because each of these questions I've seen just eliminate people I've seen you know, just one of these questions. If you ask some people will cave, so you can ask people what their references would say. And most attorneys will have lots of references and and they'll, they'll, they'll have people that you can call that, you know, they may have worked with in previous [00:39:00] firms and we'll talk about them enthusiastically.
And and they and they, they have. You know, people are, they'll have clients that will be happy to talk about you. They have, you know, and, and contrast your poor to average attorneys won't have those Roberts or they, they can't really articulate what a reference would say about that. So this just kind of shows the person's interpersonal skills and their ability to get along with others and and, and all that sort of thing when they, when they have good references.
And so that that's important. You know, and You know, keep in mind that, you know, anytime someone has worked at a place in the past the past legal employer is no different than a client. And, you know, some people are able to impress clients with their interpersonal skills and work skills and others aren't.
So if an attorney is impressed, former employers can get good recommendations and the odds are good. They did well with her. I have in the past now, obviously even the best attorneys burn bridges with clients and attorney and former employers all the time. And, and so there's nothing wrong with them not having the greatest references.
And and I honestly[00:40:00] You know, some times because of that there's kind of a code amongst certain firms where they won't even say anything negative about a previous employee, but if they say something very positive, that's a sign. And a lot of times they won't say anything negative.
They'd rather say nothing than something negative. That's more than half the cases, but there's a lot of very glowing references from the person in their past. That's obviously a very good sign. And I also You know, don't you know, ever recommend checking references with a current employer. Sometimes an attorney may be moving home from another state and offer you to say you can check them.
But you know, typically You know, you don't want to ever check Roberts as the current employer, even if the person says you can't. I just I don't understand why certain firms insist on doing that. I don't think it really accomplishes anything. I think you're better off going to the person's past.
I mean, you may even talk to some place where they were a summer associate or they worked in the summer where they worked before they went to law school. I mean, you can still get an appraisal of some, to some extent of the person's character, but [00:41:00] I don't think she'd ever talk to the person's current employer.
And so in, you know, law firms will ask for. Permission to do that, but I just don't think it's a bad idea. I don't think it ever gets up anywhere. Many times people will call HR and get that information. Other people will college attorneys, the person I've worked with if you are in HR and you're calling HR, you're, you're often just going to get you know, kind of Many times you'll get standard type answers, or if you're an HR person you're closer to other HR people, you will get you know, very honest answers.
And so most law firms are very good at kind of getting the information they want in different ways. And and, and there's certainly that that's a way to get good information. But I always recommend trying to also speak with people that they worked with as well. Sometimes if you can't and then another good question.
You can ask it samples of work. You know, so you know, this will tell you quite a bit you can always get copies of things with clients, information redacted and so forth. And [00:42:00] regardless of the attorney's level of experience, they should always have you know, some work that they can show you.
And so that's Also something that I recommend you know, and you can gain a lot from looking at attorney's work product. I mean, you can see You know you know, how they think and what they think is good work versus bad work and how and so forth. I don't know that it's, that should be the, be all end all in terms of that, because I know that a lot of people disqualify people that probably shouldn't be qualified that can learn to improve the work based on the work that they turn in.
But You know, it's kind of up to the firm. I know that there's one firm on the West coast. It brings in patent attorneys from all over California and hasn't taken a test and the test is so complicated. It has the opportunity to, to, you know, make some of the most arcane errors that would be anybody could ever make.
And and I don't think anybody has ever passed this test. I don't know why the law firm thinks it's necessary. They've never hired anybody as far as I know, and over 10 years. And[00:43:00] and it's just a waste of time. I don't really get it, but the point is that they they, they make it very, very difficult by
Just kind of a form of you know, testing or the, you know, a sample of their work. I don't think it's a good idea. Writing samples are another thing. I think that that's always a good idea to get that from litigators, especially and, and that can be helpful, but you need to be careful about disqualifying people for that.
And then a lot of times You'll be interviewing unemployed people and you always need to ask them why they're not working for many firms that just aren't being unemployed. It's such a like a warning sign that You know, that people just won't hire anybody who is unemployed. And so you definitely I don't recommend that.
I do think that unemployed people should be interviewed if it looks like they would otherwise be good attorneys, but it's you know, a very. Risky thing. And in some major markets, by the way, like New York most major firms, just because there's many [00:44:00] times morning problems with people being on warning signs, they look at it as a warning sign.
They would just rather not even interview the person rather than take a chance. And th the reason that attorneys are unemployment at times is because they might've been asked to leave. They might not have been given any work and just kind of. Felt guilty even coming into the work into the office they might've been fired.
They may have had psychological issues that made them quit. Meaning, you know, I don't know. They wanted to, you know, who knows? I mean, you just never know. But these are some of the reasons, many times that people aren't employed many times they were unable to fit in at the firm. People weren't giving a work.
They wanted to do something else. They thought they wanted to travel start a business you know, Substance abuse problems is another common one that I've seen. Several times in my career, many times that our family will take precedence over their jobs. You know, they may have done something stupid where they just kinda lost their lost face or lost her job.
Many times the law firms saw them as gossipers and [00:45:00] having a bad attitude. I've seen. You know, people get caught posting bad comments about their, from online and from computers and so forth. And or just being caught gossiping and saying bad things. And you know, so none of these things are true all the time.
But law firms think it's very risky. You know, and we'll you know, let people go because these are all things for the most part that you can't, if someone's unemployed, you can't always figure out if it's really true, people will give answers. But the big thing is if someone's unemployed, then they're there.
There's something more important to them. The working and the legal profession expects people to always be working for. I, I, that's just kind of a rule and I didn't make it up, but. There are reasons that I think that it's okay to hire attorneys that are unemployed and I place unemployed attorneys all the time.
So I, I have nothing against them. And I don't think you should either, but I think you should evaluate very closely father and employed. Many times people will also learn lessons when they're [00:46:00] unemployed. And so that's important. But you know, some things that happen that result in people losing their jobs or things like, you know, practice groups, jumping and leaving you know, like all the partners leaving and leaving the associates without work.
I've seen you know, during recessions law firms may hire entire classes of corporate associates. You know, and then the next year there's a recession and they have no work for them and they have to let them go. Those, those are things that really weren't the You know the fault of the person.
Sometimes a whole practice group is let go. Of some law firms will phase out practice areas like, or, or You know, fly man at you know attorneys may move home to be with a sick parent. You know, but th th the, the thing to keep in mind is most of these cases when firms close offices and so forth, they, they do give a warning and people do have time to find jobs.
And the best attorneys typically will have people helping them in the firm find jobs. And and you know, if you're a a hundred, if an attorney is a hundred percent of the game of practicing law, there. Really they're [00:47:00] always prioritizing their careers and staying employed until they find something else.
And so so that's just something you want to keep in mind. You certainly can hire whoever you want, but in most cases You know, you, you do want to probably prioritize hiring people that are employed if you can. And and it's just, you know, a lot of times, if you see a repeated periods of unemployment, you're you're probably going to see that again.
So with you. And and then the other, the final one, I want to just discuss, because it's important, especially for senior attorneys is the ability to generate business. And some attorneys are able to generate business others. Aren't. And in, you know, in many if, if it's a requirement of staying employed you know, then, or, or being employed and affirmed, then you should always see how attorneys are going to respond.
Many times law firms will interview attorneys that promise they're going to generate business in the future. That almost always number [00:48:00] works out. I've seen it happen. But you know, very it's, it's rare you know, it's, it's, it, people will come up with business plans and all sorts of things and say why they're going to generate business in the future.
But again, it's rare. It doesn't happen most of the time, because if they were able to generate business to have a generator where they are you know, the the other thing is you know, that you know, you may just be seeking worker bees and that's fine, but then you want to hire a worker bees and not you know, people that look like they're going to generate business.
Generally someone that's able to generate businesses, always generating business. And that's just how it is. I mean, I talk to litigators all the time that say, Oh, how am I suppose to generate businesses litigate? Or, you know, when. You know, cases come and go, well, there are people out there that consistently generate five or $10 million or more in litigation per year, and that's just who they are.
And I don't know how they do it. It's not in my business, but they do. And it's the same thing with corporate attorneys and people in different practice areas. So if you want people with business you know, there's all sorts of people that will come up with business plans and so forth and tell you that they're going to generate business, [00:49:00] but in most cases that's not gonna work out for you.
And it's going to be expensive, but it's going to lower morale. It's going to create issues and the people will get there. And it's just, nothing will happen many times. You know, and the final thing is if you're trying to hire for business generation to grow your firm, which you should then you always want to see an upward trajectory.
So. People that are bringing in, you know, one amount, one year, one amount the next year and so forth. It's going to consistently you know, th there's going to be consistent business coming in. And you know, and you know, and, and that's just how it is. So when you're able to bring in, you know, I mean, smaller firms that might bring in a hundred thousand and the 200, and then.
You know, two 50, 300. That's good. I mean, that's that's showing that they're doing something in there servicing the clients well, and they're making sure that the bills are you know, the, you know, the clients are happy and and everything is working another time. It's not. So you know, the best attorneys always figure out how to build business and that's just how it works.
And if the books decline and [00:50:00] they're doing something wrong and they'll probably not worth the risk. And and sometimes they're in the wrong environment and that's true. I mean, sometimes there's environments that are wrong for that type of attorney and their client and the type of business they're generating.
But most attorneys without business will not generate business at a new firm. And you know, and th they, they. Cam, but you know, basically the people figure out how to succeed wherever they are. I mean, I do think that there's some firms where it can be almost impossible to generate business, but for the most part, if you're hired for that you know, you need to understand that.
And the final thing to understand is that when attorneys representing. The amount of business that they're going to bring over to your firm and you're hiring them most times, not always, but most firms will kind of give them the role that you know, it's twice, what is actually gonna, they're actually gonna bring.
So if someone says they're going to bring 2 million, it's often a million of someone says they're kind of bringing a million, it's often 500,000 and so forth. It's not always the case. But you need to be careful. And I hate to be so pessimistic because I [00:51:00] certainly am in the business of not being pessimistic.
But what I am trying to do is advise you how to hire the best attorneys and not make mistakes. So that is the presentation. If anybody has any questions I would be happy to answer them and it looks like there are some so let's see here. Here. First one, let me just give me one second here.
Stop the share. Second.
You can give me one second. Okay. So the first question is when it comes to finding the best attorneys, I must be doing something wrong as soon as we can, as we interview look great on paper. But don't impress us during the interviews. I would looking in the wrong places. What can we do to make sure.
We broaden our search and attract talent from other areas. Well, I mean, typically with most positions, I mean, you want to make sure that you're advertising them you know, as widely as you can recruiters can help. But another thing th that would be helpful as well is making sure that you're you know, doing whatever you can to.
You know, bring in the right type of people often using [00:52:00] attorneys with your own firm to try to find people is a good idea. You know and, and, and that you know, is, is really what I'd recommend you know, but you know, using your own attorneys and then you know, advertising quite while Y you know, but You know, I, and I don't know what your criteria are during interviews, but you may want to put that into your you know, job description as well.
We hired an under qualified attorney. What can we do about it? Should we train them or just let them go. So if you hire under-qualified attorneys then you know, many times you can train them. It just kind of depends if they are able to rise to the. You know to the, the level of you know, what you're looking for, let's see here.
Because here our company does not have any information available. Online is we are in startup stuff mode. So it'd be possible to research our company before we hire them. What other things can we do? To gauge their interest level. Well, lots of attorneys are interested in working for a startup type companies.
And so you know, what I would recommend is if you're interested in [00:53:00] you know, hiring an attorney then you know, you put up that you're a star, you know, you're a startup and lots of, lots of attorneys are willing to take that risk, especially from major firms. I mean, they want to they, they really do want to you know, find the best position that they, that they can.
And so you know and, and, and that to them is exciting because they believe that if they go to the company, they may be able to make a lot of money with stock options and all those sorts of things. So I do think that you know, hiring. You know, attorneys South mode can be I mean first off about type company is something that the bright person will jump at.
And, you know, you're going to have a certain type of person for a startup company, which would be someone that's kind of a risk taker than you may have an an a, an, a more established company. Okay. How do we tell if someone will buy by our requirements to simple ask her in an interview? Yeah. If you have certain requirements for your your job, then I would recommend that you just ask them and just say, these are kind of things.
Is this something that's okay. I mean, one of the problems is, is [00:54:00] if you hire people and those people don't work out, meaning they you know, they, you, you give them work later and they said, well, this wasn't part of my job description, or I wasn't told about this in the interviews, then that can often be a problem later.
So I do recommend asking those sorts of telling people kind of some of the requirements of the job during the interview, whether it's traveling and so forth, that can be prepared for that. Let's see. I understand that it may be a bad idea to hire an attorney coming from an inferior law firm, but at the same time, if a candidate knowledge assistance States, you're looking for more responsibility, a challenge would it be a good hire?
Yeah. So it's always a good idea to try to hire people that are interested in moving up. And attorneys that are interested in moving up into better firms can be great hires. It's something that you know, I alw