Hand holding a post it with the words "hire me."We’re eighty percent of the way there. We’ve taken several steps to increase business, such as improving your law firm’s accessibility to increase client conversions. We’ve also looked at how lawyers can use Evernote to go paperless with their notes. During this last week we’ll go paperless with your correspondence files and other case files as well. We’re going to spend the next few days looking at an area where attorneys really struggle – hiring practices.

There’s two points to remember before we discuss hiring. First, you stopped being a lawyer, and became a business person, when you hung your shingle. If one works as a chef and opens their own restaurant then that person is no longer a chef. They’re now a business owner who does some cooking in the establishment he or she owns. Similarly, you’re no longer an attorney. You’re a business owner who performs legal services for the establishment you own. The common disconnect I deal with when consulting for attorneys, where they say “I’m a lawyer and not a businessperson,” is one of the biggest blocks in your path towards more profits. Second, having established that you own a business, making the right hiring decisions is critical to a business’ success. In spite of this, lawyers often make these critical personnel decisions quickly and with little thought. Let’s lay a few ground rules before we spend the next few days discussing who to hire.

Lawyers shouldn’t hire unless the employee is going to increase profits

The statement in the header above gets lost on attorneys for some reason. You run a business. If something is not going to directly or indirectly increase profits then there’s no sense in having it – including an employee. As common sense as that sounds I’ve seen attorneys struggle with the concept. Statements from two separate lawyers I’ve consulted with in the last fourteen months come to mind. I heard the following from each of these attorneys:

  • “I brought in [X] in revenue last year and gave it all away to my employees. That’s why I didn’t make any money.”
  • “I’m so busy I have to hire someone. I don’t want to because every time I’ve had an employee I’ve lost money and I let them go. I’m so overworked though that I’m going to bite the bullet and hire someone.”

There’s a huge problem with each of these statements. You don’t “give” money to your employees. If you hire someone it is because they are going to generate more money for you than you pay them. If this doesn’t happen then there’s no reason to hire someone. In other words, if hiring an employee doesn’t increase your profits then you made one of several hiring mistakes we’ll discuss over the next few days.

Attorneys often hire people to perform work that they should be performing themselves

There are several things you need to consider before you make the decision to hire someone. The first one, where many attorneys get it wrong, is one we’ll look at in this article. That’s when lawyers hire someone to perform work they should be doing themselves.

Here are three big mistakes I’ve seen from attorneys with whom I’ve consulted since 2011:

  • Hiring someone to do work they don’t know how to do themselves.
  • Hiring people to do work that the attorney “doesn’t want to do.”
  • Hiring someone so the attorney can take additional time off of work.

There’s two issues with hiring someone to do work because you don’t know how to do it and aren’t willing to figure it out. First, how are you going to supervise someone performing a task if you don’t even know how they’re supposed to be performing that task? What results from this has a very technical definition that you may have heard of – MALPRACTICE! Second, even if they get the end result correct you really won’t have any way of knowing if they did so in an efficient manner because you don’t understand the process. That employee may be costing you a fortune and you won’t even realize it. In other words, the make you look like this woman:

Woman at a keyboard pulling her hair out

 

Hiring someone to do work that one simply doesn’t want to do is common in law firms. Remember though, you own a business and being a business owner means doing things you don’t want to do. I’ve dealt with many attorneys who hire people for this reason and wonder why they don’t make any money; the fact that you’re reading this blog series means you’re interested in increasing profits and you have a step ahead of these people. The question isn’t whether or not you “want” to do work. If you are busy enough that your time is better spent doing something else then by all means hire someone. That being said, remember that nothing in life is free. “Work” takes work on your part, which is why you get paid for it.

Finally, there’s a difference between hiring someone to avoid working excessive hours and simply taking time off. On day 22 we discussed why attorneys need to be strict about keeping office hours. I assisted one attorney who wasn’t keeping regular office hours and was already talking about how he wanted to hire someone because he “would like to be able to take off a Friday afternoon every now and then.” If you’re not keeping regular office hours then hiring someone to work should be completely out of the question as it’s just a waste of money.

Today’s action item is simple. Understand that you are running a business and unless an employee is actually going to increase your profits then there is no reason to have them there. Tomorrow we’ll dive into more specifics regarding hiring practices.