How to Hire Effectively for Lawyers, Part 1 : Understanding Your Culture

by rocketmatter-admin April 29, 2011

Operating a small business is tough enough.  Finding good, reliable people to help you when you’re running full-tilt is even tougher.

To the legions of un- and underemployed lawyers out there,  it must seem hard to believe that finding help is a challenge. But it’s tricky to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially for solo attorneys who are not trained to hire and are juggling a thousand balls at once.

We’ve examined a number of prescriptive methods for running a business:  finding office space, using Facebook for law firm marketing, and many other topics.  Now, we’re turning our attention to the hiring process.

We’ll look at skill assessment and other factors to determine the right person for the bus.  Right now, we want to address something many hiring managers overlook that makes all the difference in the world:  hiring for culture.

If you haven’t worked in a large organization with a defined company culture, this sounds like an abstract, Kumbaya-style concept.  But even small firms have their own culture, which is a reflection of the core values of the individuals in the organization’s leadership.

When people aren’t on the same wavelength and don’t gel, it’s a lot harder to communicate, stay focused on the same priorities, and work in lock-step.  Furthermore, differences in core values can result in low morale, increased stress, and lower productivity in the office.

As Alan Lewis recently wrote in Harvard Business Review, hiring for culture should be priority numero uno.  Someone with maleable skills can be trained.

Employees who do not adhere to a shared corporate culture dilute it, detracting from the essence that gives your company its identity and helps it achieve aggressive goals. In my view, every organization’s hiring process — from Microsoft to PS 90 to everything in between — should screen candidates for the best cultural fit.

So even though a junior associate may have a few years on another candidate, you’re probably better off training a new hire that fits your firm’s vision rather than someone who doesn’t assimilate easily.

That said, skills are hugely important in a knowledge business, such as law or software. However, you may be best served in the long run if you side with values, trainability, and less mature skills over someone who has more skills but is less aligned with your way of thinking.

Lewis continues:

Hiring good cultural matches is the best way to assure the continued success of your company. It leads to higher retention (43 percent of our employees have been on board for five or more years), better employee engagement, and deeper connections with customers.

Read more of Lewis’ article here, including three ways to successfully interview for cultural fit.

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