We have 14 attorneys in our firm and we are located in Indianapolis. A couple of weeks ago in a partner meeting we discussed hiring an additional associate attorney or two. A couple of our partners are concerned whether we have ample work on day one to keep an associate busy. Is there an optimal time to hire additional lawyers?
I believe that it is important for firms to remember that they are competing in two markets – a market for clients and a market for talent. Firms must be competitive in both areas and sometimes there is not direct alignment. In other words – you may identify an excellent attorney or staff candidate sooner than you may have wanted to hire someone. What then? Will it pay for itself?
Many years ago when I worked in a law firm the managing partner came to me and said – “are you free for lunch today – I want us to interview a lawyer that is interested in a position with our firm.” I responded – “I didn’t know we were looking to hire anyone.” The managing partner responded “I am always looking for good talent and am willing to made an investment when I see quality talent – my motto is hire and retain quality talent – and market harder if we must to generate the revenue to pay the overhead – the money will come.”
Obviously cash flow and financial concerns must be taken into considerations. However, many law firms are sometimes too cautious and timid when it comes to make investments – and investment in top notch talent is one of the best investments that law firms can make.
Successful firms maintain surplus talent. When other firms are cutting attorneys and staff to cut costs, they go in the opposite direction. They cultivate serious talent with the capacity to grow new business. We will see this as law firms rebound from the recession.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC