Congratulations! You are no longer twiddling your thumbs, (not-so) patiently waiting for the phone to ring from potential clients and have successfully built up your practice to the point where you may actually need to hire some additional help. Many solo and small firm attorneys never get to this point, so please take a moment to pat yourself on the back for this accomplishment.
No seriously, pat yourself on the back. Don't worry, I'll wait...
Before you take that leap and hire an attorney, paralegal or legal support professional to help you with your practice, it's important to do some real soul-searching and carefully assess what you need. Going through this process will not only give you much-needed clarity, but it will save you the time, energy and money from making a bad-hire and having to repeat the process all over again.
Here are some questions to consider before hiring an employee:
What do you need the employee to do?
This seems like an obvious question, but it is one of the most important. Before you can hire someone to help you, you need to get really clear on what tasks you want them to perform. Do you need another attorney to be able to handle some of the cases and go to court for you? Or do you need a paralegal to handle your calendar, do simple intake and research? Perhaps you just need someone to answer the phone and greet clients when they come in. Write down everything you could possibly need the employee to do. Specificity is key and will give you a roadmap of what to include in the job description to ensure a great hire.
Do you have enough work to justify having a full-time employee?
Be honest with yourself here. Things are really hectic and busy at the moment, but will it be that way six months from now? The last thing you want to do is to be paying a full-time salary to someone when there isn’t enough work to keep them busy. Perhaps you only need someone to come in part-time or outsource to a freelancer to accommodate the ebbs and flows of your practice.
How much are you willing and able to pay?
Bringing on employees is another set of financial responsibilities. Will you be able to consistently make payroll, pay for income taxes, benefits and liability insurance? Be sure to factor in the additional overhead costs such as a computer and office supplies. The total cost of an employee is typically 1.25 to 1.4 times the employee’s base salary. Does it make financial sense to bring on an employee at this time? Are the rates you’re willing to pay going to attract quality candidates? These are things to consider.
What is your office/management style?
Give some thought as to what your management style is and what your office culture will be like. Are you a micromanager or do you require employees to figure things out for themselves? Do you want your employee to be someone you can grab a drink with after work or do you prefer to keep things strictly professional? Knowing your office/management style will help ensure that you hire an employee whose personality and working style is complementary to your own.
These are just a few questions to consider before you take the plunge and hire an employee. What other considerations should one heed before hiring? Let me know in the comments below.