How to Avoid
... And Find the Right People to Back You Up!
here are certain advantages of running a law
firm with a smaller staff, such as easier communication, greater accessibility, and more direct management. However, it can also bring some difficult challenges. What happens, for example, when a
solo practitioner goes on vacation or maternity leave?
Who stays in charge? Who will cover her work?
Coverage and other common staffing nightmares,
such as lost files, computer crashes, missed deadlines,
ethical mischiefs, and even criminal violations, can
be successfully managed by a practitioner who plans
Chooses teammates well;
Creates corporate culture;
Uses systems of checks; and
Keeps staff happy!
Choosing Your Teammates
Your professional reputation, your liability, and the
feasibility of your practice depend not only on you, but
also on the employees who run your office. Perhaps
more importantly, as a partner, owner, and/or supervising attorney, you are responsible for them and their
work while they are on your watch.1 How you select
your employees can save time and energy spent in
training and even putting out fires down the road.
For more tips on running your practice,
see AILA's Practice Management page.
The Interview Process
Consider vetting applicants through a multi-step interview process that involves more than a simple inperson interview. That is, assign tasks for applicants
related to the job duties that they will be expected to
perform. For example, if second-language skills are required, conduct a mock client phone call in that language or have the applicant perform a translation at the
interview. This will give you the ability to assess concrete skills in addition to personality and experience.
When hiring an attorney, in addition to requiring a
writing sample, give the applicants a research assignment ahead of time and ask that they come to the interview prepared to present a moot court argument
to you and your partners. Alternatively, request that
they prepare a short brief based on the research assignment so you can evaluate their legal research and
Consider the opinions of more than one person. Invite your applicants (one at a time) to have lunch with
your current staff and/or associates and get feedback
from your team afterward. Also, require at least two
references and check them. Even if the applicant has
no work experience on which to rely, someone, such
as a teacher or pastor, should be able to speak about
M AY/ J UNE 2013
ILLUSTRATION BY BRADLEY AMBURN/
by Ruby L. Powers, Hilary T. Fraser, and Meghan Moore