Lawyers are good at many things, most of them associated with legal knowledge and analysis. We’re less good at many other things, most of them having to do with business and management. One of the things we’re least good at, I believe, is identifying and interviewing talent. The existence, let alone the widespread use, of the US News & World Report law school rankings in the recruitment process tells me that ours is not a profession burdened with a sophisticated approach to talent evaluation.
You know who is good at evaluating talent? Our clients. They do it all the time, at least the ones who run a business or occupy a supervisor-level position in an office. They’ve plowed through résumés, reviewed transcripts, conducted interviews and checked references, and they do it unfettered by the blinders that lawyers place on themselves. (“Did she go to a top law school?” “Does he look and sound like a lawyer?”) It’s not a huge stretch to assert that our clients are better at recruitment than we are.
Why Not Involve Your Clients in the Lawyer Recruitment Process?
So, here’s an off-the-wall suggestion: Select a few of your best clients, the ones whose judgment you trust the most, and ask each one to take part in one aspect of your recruitment process. One client could rifle through the stack of CVs and pick her favorites; another could meet with the candidate for 10 or 15 minutes during the interview process; another could help you decide among the finalists. At each stage, you get the benefit of a reliable third-party non-lawyer view of your options.
The benefits are numerous. Lawyers who ask clients’ opinions on recruitment will learn far more about the telltale signs of real-world success than they can get from other practitioners. Interviewees who take an active interest in the client’s affairs will score far better than those who spend 15 minutes telling your client about how great they are. Clients who are considered perceptive and trustworthy enough to help the firm build for the future will beam at the compliment and strengthen their bonds to the firm.
When you think about it, the new lawyers you bring into your firm will deal with these clients eventually. So why not let the clients test-drive these recruits early on and see what they think? It’s just another way to demonstrate that while we’re smart cookies in the legal profession, we don’t actually know everything.
Jordan Furlong delivers dynamic and thought-provoking presentations to law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. He is a partner with Edge International, a senior consultant with Stem Legal, and a blogger at Law21: Dispatches from a Legal Profession on the Brink.
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