Working with many law firms all over the country, we hear the same struggles over and over when it comes to hiring paralegals. Chiefly, that good help is hard to find.
Because we are a paralegal placement service, attorneys often share what brought them to us for help. Their most frequent reasons include:
- We hired someone we knew, and it just didn’t work out
- The person had all the right qualifications but turned out not to be a fit with our team
- I am bad at picking the right people
- They never seemed to get up to speed
We’d argue that while sometimes things truly don’t work out, it’s valuable to take a step back and look for ways to rework hiring and hone training processes for new paralegals. Doing so greatly reduces the possibility of onboarding the wrong person to begin with and saves time and money.
Good hiring and training take time. This can be challenging in a busy legal practice where other team members are already feeling the pain of overwhelm or disorganization that led to the decision to hire someone in the first place. But that time is well worth it and can pay off in spades when you get the best person for the role in place.
When you know the processes for how to hire and train the right people, it’s much easier to get the perfect paralegal for your practice. Here’s a window into how we do that.
The “Free Range Paralegal” Premise: Flexibility and Remote Work
Many paralegals have a passion for this field and are committed to high-quality work. But finding the best paralegal for your firm is about more than finding a person who has the right skills.
Paralegals have a choice in who they work with, too. Increasingly, top talent recognizes that they want to work in specific kinds of firms and with certain kinds of teams. They are getting to know what they see as an ideal work environment for them. Ultimately, when they feel valued, the law firm will be happy with their performance, too.
After confirming that a candidate has three years of experience, is hungry, humble, and smart, we give our paralegals the benefit of the doubt that they are talented professionals. Our relationship is solidified through the vetting process, with the result usually being a great match.
“Availability” is one piece of the matching puzzle when beginning our new client placement process, but it’s not the driving force. Experience has taught us that the most important ingredients needed in a strong match are skillset/practice area alignment, personality, and culture fit.
It’s certainly true that someone who is available and possesses the right background is worth considering. But we’d rather focus on building a talent bench of incredible paralegals who match with us and our mission, to begin with, and go from there.
Cultural Fit Matters
Whatever position you’re hiring for it has become increasingly important to hire for a cultural fit. If your law firm has developed a mission, vision, and values statement, this can be a great starting point for us and for a paralegal to understand what you’re all about.
Many law firms put a significant amount of work and time into hiring someone new, but they also can’t afford to have those team members who are finally onboarded and providing ROI, quit.
Data shows that:
- 73% of recently surveyed professionals said they had left at least one job due to cultural fit issues
- 88% of organizational leaders believe that cultural fit is a leading reason for someone to leave a position
When you know what’s ideal as a cultural fit in your firm and when we do the heavy lifting of making sure a client’s paralegal is a fit, there’s a much higher chance that the relationship starts off positively and stays there.
What We Look for In Paralegals
In addition to thinking strategically about the best cultural fit for an open role, we like to start with a baseline of three important characteristics as explained by Pat Lencioni in his book The Ideal Team Player. He says that while many other personality traits and abilities are often considered in the hiring process, these three should always be at the top of any hiring manager’s list:
- Hungry (Do they want the job? Are they passionate about the role and the possibilities?)
- Humble (These employees don’t have concerns over status or let their ego take control in the workplace.)
- Smart (Do they have the baseline skills to do their job as well as the intelligence to problem solve on their own?)
We’ve been doing this process for some time, so we know the importance of these three foundational attributes. We start by looking for humble, hungry, and smart people. We have seen time and again that most paralegals with those qualities are able to serve our clients effectively.
Trusting paralegals for the professionals they are helps us build loyalty with them, but it also sets their working relationship with you off on the right foot. They feel empowered to lean into their skills and are excited about the work prospect.
Specific Systems Can be Trained
The truth is that no paralegal will get things perfectly right – right off the bat with the way your firm does things. But they will be able to learn things on the job. Over time, their productivity should increase as they become more familiar with the tools, systems, and processes of your firm.
When you bring in a new paralegal, it’s best to outline a training schedule to get them up to speed. Provide materials such as written documentation, handbooks, and video training to allow them to work through the learning independently. Balance this with equal parts on-the-job training where needed, such as walking them through the practice management software.
Together, this helps you and the paralegal see how things will work on a day-to-day basis.
Are you ready to hire a paralegal? Whether this is your first time or you’ve done it on your own in the past, we’ll use our proven processes to help you find the best fit for your practice.