Whenever I take a break, say in a cool cabin away from the heat and the hustle and bustle of the Phoenix area, I find myself extremely grateful. Naturally I’m grateful to God, first and foremost, for granting me stewardship over so very much. But also, I’m grateful for the amazing team we’ve assembled here at the offices of Richard James. So, before I break into any teaching I want to take a moment to thank my team for contributing to our growth by working with like-minded Entrepreneurial Attorneys to achieve their dreams.
Build A Great Legal Team
I’m well aware of the concept of “Keep It Small and Keep It All” for experienced lawyers building their business. In fact, I even own the domain. And, there is a place for that mentality, be it in different areas of practice. But as your firm grows and your law office gets new clients, your staff will become a vital asset in order to succeed in the practice of law. Law offices, like all other businesses, need a quality team to maintain the systems to provide quality service while you grow. And we’ve been blessed with an awesome team.
We have someone on the phone who really understands our dream and, better yet, knows how to communicate that dream to attorneys. While many lawyers buy into that dream, some do not. And that’s ok.
In order to attract the few, you must be willing to repel the many. We have people who give our clients expert advice that actually works from the very first consult forward and, at the same time, understand that it’s their role to let potential entrepreneurial-minded attorneys know what services we offer. We also have people who develop excellent systems that can be used to maximize their firm by reporting through the Perfect Client Life Cycle. And they all do their job with fineness and skill.
Keep Moving the Company Forward
Our daily operations and special events have been a sensational success all because of the people who have been micromanaging and working on what needs to be done. Naturally, Maria, my ECIB (East Coast Italian Bride) ensures that I have all the support I need, and our long conversations on the back porch processing complex business conundrums aids us in managing the accounts payable, as well.
With all the right people on board, we have been able to focus on our highest and best use, which helps our company to continue growing. But, as we’ve grown, the admin needs have also grown, and once in a while, there is a need to add another team member.
Now related to this are two questions. First, how did we acquire such an awesome team that supports our goals and values? Additionally, how can you avoid acquiring a team that undermines your goals and values? You might be sick of hearing it, but it all boils down to a system that we are dedicated to follow each and every time we hire a new team member.
Get the Right People, the Right Way
We follow a system that has worked much more often than it has failed to hire the right person for the job. And it all starts with the Profit and Loss statement. Yep, that dreaded P&L.
First off, it might be helpful to know that we never make a hiring decision without first asking two questions:
- How will adding this role either make or save the company money?
- If we add this role, will it allow us to maintain less than the 45% ratio of gross income to salary expenses we have as a guideline?
Once we knew the position would either save the company money or make the company money, and the market-based wage for the position allowed us to remain in the magic 45% mark, we could move forward. If either of those questions were not in line, we’d halt discussions for making a new hire, period. Remember, once you develop a system and create rules to follow, the moment you break those rules is the moment the system is at risk.
Once we are committed to move forward and proceed with the hiring, we invest the time required to list all the tactical and strategic duties of the position. This is simpler if you are managing those duties personally. From those duties we created the position contract. We then needed to ensure we had the systems required to allow someone else to manage these duties.
Did we require new software, hardware, passwords or security access to programs? Did we need a new office space, desk, etc.? How would this new role fit into the fabric of our current culture? Don’t miss that last piece by the way – your culture. It’s vital you first determine your culture and then find people who will fit in with that culture.
Create the Ideal Employee Avatar
Once we knew the skill sets, the systems and had a grasp on our culture, we created our executive assistant avatar. This is very similar to the practice of creating your perfect client avatar. Our goal was to identify the “who” we were going to attempt to attract. We listed all the attributes, skills and personalities we desired for this person to have and we attempted to leave no stone unturned.
Now that we had what our “who” looked like in a list format we took that list to create the body of the ad we were going to use. The goal was to create an ad that removed any doubt of the type of person we were looking for and more importantly repel anyone who wouldn’t be a good fit for our company. And it’s really important that you don’t miss this teaching point. Advertising for a potential team member is the SAME as advertising for a potential client. So, once you master the skills required to market for a team member, those skills will easily transfer over to finding the perfect client and vice versa. Marketing is marketing.
Advertise the Job Position, the Right Way
Next, just like creating an advertising piece, it is important to build an appropriate headline. When advertising for a team member, it’s important the headline states in simple English what the job is. There is no need to get complicated. But you may need to tweak the headline if you find it’s not performing well. If, for example, you advertised for a “General Assistant” position and the applicants you were receiving were less than stellar, maybe you should change the headline to “Executive Assistant.” Such would relate to the person you are attempting to hire. Ask a fisherman, he’ll tell you, “The bait you use, will determine the fish you catch.”
Once you've designed the headline, work on a strong call to action, just like when designing an advertising piece. If the position would involve communicating with our vendors, clients, and staff directly, it would be important to hear the applicant's voices. You may, for example, ask them to leave a voicemail for their application to be considered.
Here’s the thing: people don’t read ads like they used to. Part of that is on them, being lazy and too attached to technology. But also, that’s partly the employment world we live in. HR departments rely more and more heavily on machines, literal or figurative, to determine worthy applicants by their resume. It might be necessary to add in a “pattern interrupt” to get their attention. Again, just like advertising for a client.
Perfecting the Interview Process
Once you've created the list of duties, the contract and systems, the client avatar, and the ad (with the proper headline and call to action), you should work on the interview process before starting to receive any prospects. After trying several different systems through the years, my favorite is the Top Grading method as outlined in the book “Who” by Geoff Smart.
We have often used four interview steps. First, the phone interview, second, the TopGrading Interview, third the Personality Test, fourth the group interview and offer.
Believe it or not, Craigslist.org could be a good source of leads, as well as a Zip Recruiter. Indeed.com can also deliver a high volume of good quality leads. I highly recommend that you use them when looking for your next hire.
During a group interview, one time when we got a new team member, we had everyone tell their story. It was by far one of the most rewarding moments I’ve had as an owner. Hearing the stories of our team members, why they started working with us and why they still work there today, it was touching, and it affirmed we were on the right path.
From experience, we do not make an offer to entice the prospect team member. In fact, our financial offer may even be considered a repellant if it's less than what they are making currently. We’re not attempting to be cheap, but we don’t want potential team members coming on board simply for a paycheck, they have to want the total package of who we are, what we stand for, the culture, the team, the clients, the whole package.
A Trusted Consultant for Business and Legal Matters
The American Bar Association and the legal profession are both very prestigious and rigorous. Both old and new lawyers have a professional responsibility to succeed in their law practice. What other attorneys and lawyers overlook, however, is the business aspect of providing legal services. Giving legal advice for legal issues is one thing, dealing with US law firm management is another.
Different types of lawyers represent clients in different areas of law. A client, for instance, may be trying to find a lawyer for legal problems related to intellectual property law. Someone drafting wills may need a lawyer specializing in probate and estate planning. And someone may be looking for a lawyer for criminal defense, or from real estate law offices, or for other legal documents related to personal injury law. The range is broad. However, the best law firms and the best lawyers in America share a thing in common: efficient US law firm management.
Get a Legal Systems Expert to Refine Your Hiring Process!
Even the best lawyers sometimes forget how important this is for their legal practice. Whether you are a small or large law firm, effective US law firm management is crucial in your law business. A hiring process that is not apt, for one, can leave you struggling with team members who undermine your ability to build the practice of your dreams.
Skills necessary from top lawyers doing legal research and a sales expert doing necessary evaluations are different. Any major law firm who wants to get ahead of a competitor should talk to a consultant who knows the business aspects of a legal system. Our hiring process works, especially since we've mastered it with immense discipline and a whole bunch of practice. A legal systems expert like Richard James can help explain if a similar process will work for you, given your firm's goals and resources. There is a perfect hiring process for each team, and an experienced business consultant can help you find it. Call us now and let us hear your story.
Becoming one of the biggest law firms, one hiring system at a time.