Hiring, training, and managing employees have certainly not been easy things to learn when it comes to owning my own law practice. I say it time and time again, but these are the things that we never learned in law school, but yet seemingly take up a great deal of time (and expense) if not done well.
One common mistake that I am guilty of making in the past, but that I’ve seen come up quite a bit lately in the coaching that I do with other attorneys is the idea of not hiring the right people for the job. Nothing is worse than taking all of the time to place a job advertisement, sift through the resumes, do rounds of interviews and background checks, make a selection, and then bring a new hire in and a few weeks or months go by and the writing is on the wall—they’re not the right person for the job.
If the person is within a probationary period (and depending on your state’s labor laws), the general rule of thumb here is that they should be terminated so that you can find someone that’s the right fit.
All too often, I see people begin making adjustments to that person’s job duties. Since he or she is not that great at word processing, then we’ll have them go and do this instead. The result of doing this is absolutely disastrous!
First, it then puts the burden on other employees to pick up the slack where that employee could not meet his or her job requirements. This is why so many business owners end up losing great employees, because they begin to overload those more capable workers with things and they eventually burn out or become so resentful, they decide to just leave.
Second, doing this sets up a really bad pattern of managing people and developing specific job duties and roles within your firm. It doesn’t hold people accountable and it makes it really hard for when you finally do decide to let them go to have a firm ground to stand on.
Last but certainly not least, this idea of fitting jobs to individuals (rather than the other way around) creates a remarkable amount of chaos for your firm and its work processes. If you start to fit jobs to people, then you begin to have roles in your firm that are in various departments and people will naturally begin to struggle to keep focus and maintain their priorities, even if the tasks that you have them doing perhaps play to their strengths.
Don’t Fall Victim to the Quick to Hire, Slow to Fire!
The tendency is to be quick to hire because there’s an immediate need to get someone in to help and you just select the first one that “looks good” and “smells good.” Then, when you clearly see all the red flags and they’re not performing the job tasks you hired them for up to the standard you would like, you don’t want to do that uncomfortable, unpleasant, but necessary part of the job, which is to let them go.
Look, I get it. Nobody likes to have to do that. You begin to get to know these people, perhaps even know stuff about their families or personal life, and you don’t want to be the “bad” guy (or gal). But, this is all business and, truthfully, you’re not doing any justice to that person to allow them to continue to underperform and not find a job doing the tasks that they’re good at and that they love and in a position they thrive in.
Steps You Can Take
Take a moment to think about your own law practice. Do you have clearly defined roles and duties for each person? Have those become less and less clear over the years because of this issue? It’s time now to develop an Organizational Chart and review what your staff’s job titles and job duties are and make sure that they make sense. The result may be some restructuring of roles and duties (again, making sure that the restructuring is putting the right people into the right role/job!).
If you have any situations where you have underperforming employees, it might be time to prepare and set up performance evaluations, where you can set up some very clear and specific goals with a timeframe for improvement and satisfactorily meeting those goals. By holding others in your firm accountable, you will begin to allow for space and room in your firm for the right people to come in and work for you and avoid all of the unnecessary chaos that comes from not properly addressing the real issues at hand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Philip J. Kavesh is the principal of one of the largest estate planning firms in California – – Kavesh, Minor and Otis – – which has been in business since 1981. He is also the President of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc., which provides a variety of training, marketing and practice-building products and services for estate planning professionals.
If you would like more information or have a question for him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-866-754-6477.