Voice

May-June 2013

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How to Avoid Staffing Nightmares ... And Find the Right People to Back You Up! T 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 ahead and: • • • • 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 writing skills. 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 the applicant. M AY/ J UNE 2013 ILLUSTRATION BY BRADLEY AMBURN/ SHUTTERSTOCK.COM by Ruby L. Powers, Hilary T. Fraser, and Meghan Moore 23

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