Getting the right person to meet your needs starts with defining what you need in terms of tasks, the qualities you're looking for and the kind of manager you want to be. Then think about your budget. Would a creative arrangement give you needed flexibility?

Small or solos are in a unique position when it comes to becoming employers. Most have never been responsible for or even needed to hire someone in any context. Our risk averse nature also leads many attorneys to see the hiring process as too problematic.

Many of us have also had the unfortunate experience of a bad hire. Hiring the wrong person can be worse than having no help. Bad hires create unnecessary tension, conflict, and ultimately leaves everyone involved disappointed. There are ways to avoid the wrong hire—even when the need is urgent. Here’s what to think about should you find yourself ready to pull the trigger:

Write a Job Description

Job descriptions can be daunting. How do you describe things in a way that someone will actually want to apply? Start simple by writing a list of everything that needs to get done this week. Then, mark all the things that could be done by someone other than yourself. Now, you can convert this into a job description by:

  • Removing the client specific needs and identifying the underlying task. Do you need a lot of scanning, research, data entry help, or all of the above?
  • Grouping the tasks to think about bigger picture needs. Does the balance tip towards administrative, substantive, or is it a mixed bag? This will help shape the job title for the need.
  • Thinking about how this person would function in your practice. Will they have a desk, be remote, or share workspace? Can your system handle another user? Little details matter.
  • Developing a sense of the ideal qualities of this person. Do you want someone who waits for orders or someone who just gets it done? What kind of manager do you want to be?

Set a Budget

Start by understanding exactly how much you can afford. This can be the most challenging part. Solo and small firms can be more affected by the natural influx (or loss) of client work. Here are some things to think about when establishing your economic commitment:

  • Is there a way to bill the person? It’s pretty standard to bill for paralegals, law clerks, and junior attorneys. A hybrid admin/paralegal role can also help recoup costs when there is some part of their duties that includes billable work.
  • What is the hourly commitment needed? A part-time or as needed basis might enable you to pay a little bit more per hour while still saving money.
  • Can a creative arrangement be established to provide flexibility? A freelancer or temporary employee might be the answer to help with a large influx of work with an uncertain duration.
  • What are the opportunity costs that will be saved with the investment? Growth of a practice sometimes requires an initial investment. Think about all the things you could be doing to generate revenue while you are scanning, book-keeping, and doing data entry.

Develop a Process

Establish a direction once you know what the need is and how much you can afford. This will avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches and time wasters. Here are some things to think about as you develop the search process:

  • Will you go it alone or work with an agency? You can do both in conjunction to try to get a better depth of candidates.
  • How will you spread the word? Social media? Ask friends and family? Job boards?
  • Where will resumes go and how will they be judged? Do you really want them coming into your work email? If they go somewhere else, who will be checking that general email or blind box?
  • What will the general interview process look like? Will there be multiple interviews? Will there be a phone call to screen out bad candidates first? Who will the candidates meet and what is the value of the other people’s input?

Now Start Searching!