The 6 Most Common Hiring Mistakes Law Firms Make

12 minutes to read

Mistakes happen when learning to run your law firm like the business it is. While some mistakes can be handled quickly and smoothly, others can be more complicated to work out — and that’s especially true when it comes to hiring.

The team you build is the company you build, and it’s impossible to do extraordinary things without extraordinary people. Many law firm owners realize the importance of hiring key players to help their organizations grow, but many struggle to find great talent, attract them to work at their law firms, and retain them in the long run.

They struggle because they are making common hiring mistakes.

It’s time for those mistakes to come to an end in your law firm.

In this guide, we’re going to go over the most common hiring mistakes that law firm owners make:

  1. Lack of Clarity Over Roles
  2. Not Strategizing a Hiring Process
  3. Not Treating Hiring Like Marketing and Sales
  4. Settling for the Best Available
  5. Not Onboarding New Hires
  6. Not Investing in Your People

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #1: Lack of Clarity Over Roles

It’s simple: How can you expect to hire the perfect candidates to fill your open roles if you aren’t clear on what great looks like? Better yet, how can you expect anyone to want to apply if they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into?

“Great” at your firm should align with your core values. Everyone at your firm should embody the firm’s core values and work hard to uphold that standard. This creates the foundation for your firm’s culture. Then it’s up to you as a leader to expand on that culture.

The next step to determining what “great” looks like at your firm is to evaluate your current and past team members. You can break up this process by asking yourself these two questions:

1. Would you enthusiastically re-hire every single member of your existing team? Why or why not?

2. What is the most common reason for departure when someone leaves your law firm?

If you LET them go, what led to that decision? Consider some possibilities:

  • Did they fail to meet expectations?
  • Did they know what you expected of them?
  • Was there poor communication?
  • Was there drama around them and their work?

If they CHOOSE to leave, what was the reason? Ask yourself (and honestly answer):

  • Were they overwhelmed/felt unprepared for the work of their role? Did they disagree with the direction of the firm?
  • Were they unwilling to change with your organization? (Because growing organizations should constantly be changing.)
  • Was there drama around them and their work?
  • Your answer to these questions will help you understand what your law firm needs to thrive and what may kill your business. (P.S. This also helps you audit your current team to help you identify where to make some changes.)

Additionally, take the time to outline the role responsibilities, role requirements, and company differentiators that will set this role apart for potential candidates. These factors will inform who you need, and will help candidates self-identify with the must-haves you advertise in your job postings.

Once you identify what great would look like, how do you find it? How can you ensure you get great when hiring for a new role in your law firm? The answer is to structure a strategic hiring funnel to attract, qualify, and bring on exactly who you’re looking for — every time.

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #2: Not Strategizing a Hiring Process

The best way to find your ideal candidates is by using a structured hiring process that’s the same for every person who applies to your open roles. Take a look at the one Crisp uses for reference:

  1. The Job Description: Be honest and straightforward about your needs for this role. Don’t settle for the first available applicant.
  2. Call the Number: This step gives candidates instructions for what to do next, including how to apply and what to submit to us. But they must call the number to get those instructions. If they don’t do this very first (very easy) step, that tells us right away they are not detail-oriented, don’t follow instructions, and likely won’t be a good fit for our bigger-picture values.
  3. Submit Application: Just sending a resume with no personality should not be enough for you. Screening for initial indicators at the application stage will help you gauge if they align with your firm’s culture and values — and save you time talking to bad-fit candidates.
  4. Phone Interview: Remember, you are marketing this role and your organization. Have a pitch ready for your first encounter with a potential candidate. Give them unique reasons to join your firm — but also ask strategic questions to screen out bad fits from the start.
  5. Test Assignment: Having a candidate complete a test assignment will tell you so much about them — and it will give them a sense of what the role they’re applying for actually entails day-to-day. Be sure to give them a hard deadline so you can see if they are committed to getting the job done. If not, drop them out of the process.
  6. Assessments: We’re talking about the kind of assessments that have no right or wrong answers. The purpose of this hiring step is to understand who a potential candidate is and how they best operate and interact with others. We use the Wonderlic, Kolbe, and PRINT.
  7. Final Interview: You’ve done the groundwork in learning if a candidate is a good fit for the job by this step. Now, the final interview is your opportunity to get to know them at a deeper, personal level and make a final decision on whether they are the best fit.
  8. References/Background Check: We ask for references for two reasons. The first is to help us confirm all the information a candidate has provided, and the second helps us gain insight into how successful they were in their previous roles. Always ask past employers, “Would you enthusiastically rehire this person?”
  9. Offer Letter: You and the candidate should be on the same page at this point. At Crisp, we don’t like to send out offer letters we will not get back, and we believe you shouldn’t either. Everything should be settled upon, such as compensation, benefits, etc.

If it seems overwhelmingly detailed, that’s because we made it that way intentionally. Each step of this process was carefully crafted to give us vital information about each candidate, help us understand how they may fit into the mosaic of the team, and remove those that are not ideal fits from the funnel.

Remember: The goal of a hiring process is to weed out bad fits and to move only excellent candidates through to the end. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and money on mediocre applicants — two things you can’t afford to waste.

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #3: Not Treating Hiring Like Marketing and Sales

If you aren’t positioning your law firm as an attractive place to work (similarly to how you must position your law firm as the ideal choice for your potential clients in your marketing), then you have no hope of standing out to your ideal candidates.

Put simply: You must always be “selling” the opportunity to work at your law firm.

Founder & CEO of Crisp Michael Mogill always says that culture is your ultimate competitive advantage, and that’s because people want to work for a company that promotes collaboration, stands for something meaningful, and provides growth opportunities.

That’s one of the reasons Crisp developed a set of strategic core values that every committed team member must possess:

Crisp Core Values

  1. Results Driven, Not Effort Driven – Keep your focus on achieving metrics and objectives; stay committed to the end; never lose sight of the goal.
  2. Vested in Client Success – Go the extra mile; find a solution no matter what; ensure clients’ best interests are in mind.
  3. Better Than Yesterday – Hold yourself to the same expectations you hold teammates; learn from your mistakes and make progress; create better standards for yourself and your teammates.
  4. Solution Focused – Make impactful and effective changes; speak up when something is not working; keep your mindset focused on finding the right solution rather than only bringing problems.
  5. Take Ownership – Step up and step in rather than waiting for others to take action first; be accountable for the results of your actions; take the initiative to bring positive results and learn from moments of failure.
  6. Team First – Jump in when you see your teammate in need of help; be proactive in finding ways to add value; focus on our five-year vision that we can all be constantly working together toward achieving $1 billion in impact.
  7. Consistency – Repeat your behaviors until your habits become second nature; be consistent with your work, habits, mindset, and grind; be a game changer every single day.

When people know what kind of environment they’re about to jump headfirst into, it gives them peace of mind as they know what to expect. It also will excite the right candidate to know they will be joining a team that shares the same values, goals, and characteristics.

According to Forbes, employers should trade 90 percent talent for just 10 percent character. That’s a huge deficit — why would they recommend that?

You can teach talent. Character comes from within.

Remember: Your standards are non-negotiable, and potential candidates should know that from the beginning. Highly accountable candidates will be excited by the prospect. Wrong fits will be scared away (to your benefit). Never stop marketing your law firm for exactly what it is. When you do, you’ll attract the right people from the very start.

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #4: Settling for the Best Available

“People are not your greatest asset — the right people are.”

Jessica Mogill, Head of Coaching Strategy at Crisp

If you refuse to settle in every other area of your life — you want the best spouse, the best car, the best house, the best clothes, the best food — why wouldn’t you want the best people working for the law firm you have built?

If you’re still hiring the best available people instead of taking the time to really search for the best candidates, you’re doing yourself and your firm a huge disservice.

We live in the age of the Great Attrition.

In the past few years, a record number of employees have quit or planned to quit their jobs, and that number continues to increase. In the U.S. alone, voluntary attrition increased by almost 800,000 in the past year, while involuntary attrition decreased by almost 400,000 during the same period according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that’s not all: According to a McKinsey survey, nearly a quarter of employers believe they are holding on to more low-performing talent now compared to a year ago. They’re unable to keep the best talent. They’re simply stuck with the most available.

Does this sound like you?

  • If it does, ask yourself the following questions to determine who you should hire to join your firm:
  • Would you enthusiastically re-hire every single member of your team as it stands right now?
    • What are the common denominators of the A-players currently on your team?
  • Replicate these traits as you hire new team members. Don’t give up until you find them.
    • What do all the bad fits have in common?

Refuse to hire anyone else that fits this description.

Once you know those answers, that’s when you’ll know who to look for during the hiring process — and who to refuse to settle for.

The good ones are out there. You just need to find them, attract them, and then treat them right.

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #5: Not Onboarding New Hires

Onboarding is arguably the most important part of the hiring process — and it actually begins after you’ve made the hire. While you may be ready to bring this person onto your team, you want to make sure you effectively prepare them for their role so they are set up for success. If you fail to meet their expectations in those critical first few weeks, then you could be accelerating the turnover rate and costing your firm time and money searching for the next one.

Just like your newly structured hiring process, you’ve got to have an onboarding process that is the same for every new person hired and fully equips them for their new role.

Here are a few ways to make a positive impression from the start — increasing the longevity of your law firm’s new hires:

  • Standardize each new hire’s onboarding process. Who will they need to meet and train with in order to be successful? What resources will they need from you? What will their first day at work look like?
  • Stack their calendars. Your new hire doesn’t know what a typical day in the life at your law firm looks like, and they won’t come in knowing what to expect from their new position. Plan out their first days to the fullest extent possible to give them a better understanding and help them hit the ground running.
  • Ensure they meet their new colleagues. It can be intimidating coming to work on the first day and not knowing anyone. Consider implementing meet and greets or one-on-ones between your new team members and existing ones. This will help your new hire feel comfortable and welcomed, and it will give your existing ones an active role in shaping the culture of your organization.

Remember: Effectively onboarding new hires makes a huge impact on whether they’ll stick around for the long term. Prioritize them from the very start.

Law Firm Hiring Mistake #6: Not Investing in Your People

You must view your team members as investments to be maximized, not costs to minimized. Take a look at the dangerous cycle leaders fall into when they don’t maximize their people (investments):

Low investment → High turnover → Operational challenges → Decreased revenue

Team photo

When we say invest in your team, we don’t mean shower them with happy hours and free lunches. We mean really invest in them and their futures. Instead of the freebies that breed entitlement, invest in initiatives that will help them become better people both personally and professionally.

Consider investing in:

  • Continuing education
  • Book clubs
  • Certifications
  • Community involvement
  • And so much more

There’s no shortage of ways to better your team, and when you show them that you care enough about them to help improve their lives, they will invest in your law firm’s success in return.

Final Thoughts

Your team is the key differentiator that will accelerate your law firm’s growth. To treat them as anything else would be a major disservice to your entire organization.

If you’re ready to stop making hiring mistakes like these and finally up your hiring process, we can help. Apply to join Crisp Coach, the ultimate unfair advantage for committed law firm owners like you. Learn how to hire the perfect candidates for your open positions every time, and never waste your time or money again.

Your people out there…

Are you ready to find them?