The quality of your staff can make or break the quality of your law firm. Despite the best of intentions, it’s not uncommon for a bad hire to slip past during the interview process. Sooner or later, it grows clear that hiring a certain individual was a mistake. Unfortunately, recovering from this decision can be challenging. 

Instead of documenting the issues and firing promptly, firm owners and managers often make the mistake of putting up with a bad hire’s issues by turning a blind eye or hoping they improve with time. Before you take this route, it’s important to understand the real impact of a bad hire and how much it might end up costing your firm.

How Bad Hires Happen

Trying to find top talent for your law firm can be a challenge. No matter how rigorous your hiring process is, occasionally, bad hires slip through the cracks. 

Their interview performance may have been deceptive or misleading, or an inadequate hiring process might be to blame. 

Failing to ask the right questions, forcing a job candidate to demonstrate their knowledge, abilities, or attitudes on the spot, and not following through with verifying references and other background information are common hiring mistakes that can easily lead to hiring the wrong person for the job.

One final reason bad hires happen is demand. If you find yourself short-staffed, hiring quickly might be the priority. Streamlining your regular hiring process to get someone in the position as soon as possible can be a gamble. Sometimes, it works out, but other times, it doesn’t.

People put their best foot forward at interviews, and sometimes, their performance once they’re hired simply doesn’t match the image they portrayed during the hiring process. 

Whether they don’t have the skill and ability level you thought you were hiring, they cut corners on the job, or they bring a toxic attitude into the workplace, it’s important to recognize the issue and take action. 

The Impact of a Bad Hire on Your Firm

Hiring the wrong person wastes time and resources. The hiring process involves investing time into placing a job ad, reading applications, checking references, and conducting interviews. Hiring is a drain on resources, as the staff members who perform this work could be using their time more productively. 

Ideally, this is meant to be an investment that pays off in the form of a properly vetted new employee. However, when the hiring process doesn’t work out, it’s a waste, as the entire process must begin again.

A bad hire can also have a serious negative impact on the office environment and general morale. When a bad hire can’t or won’t do their work properly, it means more work for those who can do the job correctly. 

When issues with a bad hire are more related to attitude or behavior, it takes a toll on morale. Gossiping, negativity, and disregard for rules and policies all impact the happiness and productivity of everyone in your firm.

Recognizing a Bad Hire

It’s easy to call someone a bad hire when you’re unhappy with how they contribute to your firm. However, it’s important to start by identifying why they’re a bad hire. They usually fall into one of two categories. These could be called technical and non-technical skills. 

Technical skills focus on the skills, knowledge, and ability required to do the job. For example, you might hire a paralegal, assuming they’ll be ready to jump into work drafting discovery notices or powers of attorney. You then quickly discover that your new hire has little to no experience doing this and needs constant help and oversight. 

This situation is an example of a hire who is bad for technical reasons. They lack the ability to perform the job they were hired to do.

The other most common reason a staff member turns out to be a bad hire is for non-technical reasons. This is a broad category that includes work ethic, communication skills, or the ability to work on a team. 

This type of bad hire can be particularly frustrating. They might cut corners on the job, communicate poorly, or bring a bad attitude into the office. 

Coming to Terms With a Bad Hire

No leader wants to be in the position of dealing with a bad hire. However, you’ll probably have to navigate it sooner or later if you’re in a leadership position. The sooner you come to terms with a bad hire, the better. Not having a plan in place is a mistake that costs your firm both in terms of resources and morale. 

Once you’ve hired someone, the ideal outcome would be for them to understand the job demands and rise to the occasion. Things can sometimes work out like this, but it’s best to recognize that you may need to fire the employee

First, identify why the individual is a bad hire. Is the reason technical skills, non-technical skills, or a combination of the two? Then, meet with the staff member to discuss concerns and make sure they clearly understand your expectations. 

Finally, keep careful, detailed records of how they have failed to perform the job as expected. This might involve making errors, showing up late, or making negative or inappropriate comments.

It’s often necessary to cut ties with a bad hire. It’s best to do this sooner rather than later. Keeping detailed records of issues with their work performance ensures you have any documentation you might need to fire them. 

Finding the right candidate can be a frustrating drain on resources, even when the hiring process works out well. When it doesn’t work out, the frustration and wasted resources can be greatly magnified. If you need support finding the right workers for your law firm, Woven Legal can help. 

Woven Legal is a legal support staffing agency. We take the headache out of the hiring process by connecting you with well-vetted candidates with the legal experience and work ethic you need. 

We offer a subscription service where you choose 10-40 hours of support a week. We assist in placing remote legal assistants, paralegals, client intake specialists, and other support staff. Learn how we can help with your hiring needs today.

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