Make sure you need a paralegal or legal secretary before you hire one. If you are a sole practitioner or run a small firm you may be able to keep your practice running smoothly without one. An excellent Legal Case Management Software program such as Needles can help you take on many of the tasks that you’d assign to support person.
On the plus side, paralegals can help you free up your time to work on your most difficult cases. However, before you hire a paralegal make sure you’ll be able to give him or her enough billable hours to make the position pay for itself and then some.
Following are some tips that will help you choose a paralegal or legal secretary who will meet your needs:
*Conduct a multi-faceted search that includes networking at professional functions, advertising in legal journals, word-of-mouth referrals and even job listings on Craig List.
*Make sure you select from a pool of candidates who are good writers. Pay careful attention to the cover letter. In your job ad, ask applicants to specify in the cover letter why they want to work for your firm and what specific skills they bring to the table. Is the language, clear, concise, persuasive and grammatically correct? If not, take a pass.
*Ask probing questions that force the candidate to articulate responses to real-life situations. For example: “Cite an example worked with others to solve a difficult problem.” “Give some instances when you used tact and diplomacy to interact with a difficult client.” “How will your organizational skills be an asset to the firm?” Stay away from questions that will elicit yes or no answers.
*Check out credentials. Did the job finalists complete paralegal training? Verify any professional certificates or licenses.
*Carefully check references. Don’t hesitate to ask past employers about key skills and accomplishments.
*Run a criminal background check before you offer someone the job. The few dollars you spend for the background check will provide some peace of mind.
*Be sure your top candidates have in-depth experience in your firm’s key practice areas.
*Consider a temp to perm arrangement. You can specify a 30-90 day period as a trial by fire to make sure the candidate is a good fit before you commit to a long-term relationship.
*In your advertisements be very specific about the duties required and make sure that the individual you choose has the background and experience to perform them. Unless you have the time to train your paralegal or legal secretary, you must be confident that the individual you hire is ready to work efficiently right away.
*If you are able to do so, offer flexible hours. By building flexibility into your employment arrangement, you’ll broaden your selection pool.
*Test your applicants. You can create testing materials that evaluate a candidate’s familiarity with legal procedures, word processing ability, grammar, and overall computer skills.
*Offer a competitive salary. Do research to determine what other law firms of similar size are offering their paralegals and legal secretaries.
*Introduce finalists to key members of the firm. That way you’ll get an idea how the candidates interact with the people with whom they’ll be working every day.
As you bring in new staff members to your firm, be sure to rely on the professionals at Needles to bring them up to speed on your Legal Case Management Software.