Hiring an exceptional paralegal or paralegals is essential for any law firm to conduct business productively. As we all know, paralegals not only lighten the workload for attorneys, but also serve as a lifeline for clients. When thinking about your list of requirements for paralegal candidates, consider these six tips before extending a job offer.
1. Be Clear about the Type of Paralegal You Need
Outline the expectations you have for the role. Be specific in your listing, job description and initial discussions with the candidate on what you’re looking for in the position. Paralegal positions vary widely from firm to firm. It’s important to ensure the candidates have relevant or previous experience.
2. Hone your Questioning Skills
Paralegals play a critical role in the overall firm ecosystem. Don’t be afraid to dig in and ask personality- and behavioral-based questions during the interview process, especially if the paralegal will be a primary client contact. It’s key to find an individual who works well in those situations and has demonstrated effective, compassionate communication skills. Also, consider the importance of identifying team players.
Ask behavioral questions that probe into pain points or personality types they may have struggled with in the past. For example, tell me about a time that you didn’t reach your goal. Do they take personal accountability or resort to blaming others if goals were missed? Ask them to share a time that they had to manage a challenging or difficult situation? These types of questions can offer insight into how the candidate will “show up” and uncover any red flags or themes of conflict.
3. Organization is Key
Multitasking is the name of the game. Keeping up with ever-changing and multifaceted deadlines can be difficult, so finding a paralegal who is highly organized is a nonnegotiable. Review and discuss past experiences and examine their systems for organization as well as the types of tasks they’ve had experience juggling. Don’t shy away from asking hard questions that dive into the details around how they prioritize, respond to urgent requests and what platforms and programs they are familiar with to stay on schedule.
4. Be Open to Different Experience
Depending on the time and resources at your disposal, consider looking at different levels of experience when hiring. If a candidate’s initial experience is not an ideal fit, don’t immediately dismiss. Many exceptional paralegals are developed. Look for team fit, personality and fundamentals. Most paralegal skills can be taught if you’re willing to coach and invest the time.
5. Source Referrals
Another great way to source potential candidates is to ask your employees and colleagues for recommendations and referral. Often these individuals already know your organization’s culture and some indication of what makes someone successful in your environment. Of course, if any current paralegals are a part of an association, that’s another good avenue to source experienced talent.
6. Research your Candidates
It may seem obvious, but in the age of social media, the importance of researching your candidates’ social profiles cannot be overstated. These candidates will be representing your firm and interacting with your clients. Investigate and understand how they show up on social channels to ensure they align with your organization’s culture, values and philosophy. The same goes for verifying their recent professional history and references beyond simply calling. Go the extra mile by doing your own research to verify accuracy and legitimacy.
While there are no guarantees in hiring, following these six guiding principles will increase the odds of finding a good fit for your paralegal position.