Our firm does mostly flat fee work. I am the sole owner of the firm and am considering hiring my first associate. Each of us work as a team and do a lot of cross-over work on all client/matters. I have two paralegals. We don't keep timesheets on our flat fee cases. Do you have any suggestions as to how to proceed with the hiring of this associate?
It sounds like your firm is relucantly approaching the next step in its growth. Adding your first associate will change the dynamics of your firm and will require you begin to implement more formal approaches to performance management for all members of your team – the new associate, your staff, and yourself. I would start by thinking through the exact tasks and roles that you would like the associate and other staff members to perform. In other words define the associate position. Do to expect the associate to bring in business? Are you willing to train a new associate without experience or are you looking for someone with experience. Can you structure work so there is less crossover of team members on files? If not, how are you going to measure their performance and production? (Time, their production fee dollars, file or case counts, etc.) Are you going to incorporate a variable pay or incentive bonus component into the compensation plan for the associate as well as the other staff members? (More firms are doing this) Define the position first and then decide on the "who".
I encourage you to begin establishing production (performance) goals for all employees and then measure performance against these goals. Tied at least a portion of compensation to accomplishment of these goals. More firms are starting to pay for performance and less for simply showing up.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC