Looking to hire new talent for your law firm? You may know you need to add a new member to your team, but how should you go about finding the best person for the job? Jared Correia talks with legal staffing consultant Molly McGrath about her strategies for identifying team needs, defining the role to be filled, and selecting the right candidate for the job. They dig into how her processes can be carried out in law firms and Molly offers tips for training and supporting newly hired talent.
Special thanks to our sponsors Scorpion, Nexa, TimeSolv, and Abby Connect.
The Legal Toolkit
Building Your Team: How to Acquire Top-Notch Talent for Your Law Firm
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit podcast, here on the one and only Legal Talk Network.
If you are looking for Biff Tannen of Back to the Future I, II and III Fame, he’s probably nose deep in the Sports Almanac right now.
If you’re a returning listener, welcome back. If you’re a first-time listener hopefully you’ll become a longtime listener and if you are Chester Cheetah it’s probably really hard to wash your fingers.
As always, I am your show host, Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, a first-to-market chatbot builder and predictive analytics created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
And finally, because I don’t have enough to do, you can listen to my other, other podcast; The Lobby List, a family travel show I host with my dear wife, Jessica on iTunes. Subscribe, rate and comment.
But here on The Legal Toolkit, the podcast you are listening to right now, we provide you twice each month with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit, so your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about How to Acquire Talent and how to build a great team.
But before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
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All right, everybody. My guest today is Molly McGrath. Molly is a Founder and Owner of Hiring & Empowering Solutions. Since the late 1990s Molly has consulted, coached and directed presidents and founders of National Organizations and over 400 law firms, including on the topics of talent acquisition and team development.
So Molly, welcome to the big show.
Molly McGrath: Oh, thank you for having me Jared. I’m honored.
Jared Correia: Was only fair I did your podcast. Now you are coming on to do mine. We trade it off.
Molly McGrath: Yes, and your episode is launching today.
Jared Correia: Wow, what a day. It’s a red-letter day for me. All right. Now listen, I was looking at your website and I saw something interesting. So it says that you’re a certified Reiki coach, right? So I don’t even know how to pronounce that probably. Can you tell people what that is?
Molly McGrath: Yes, it’s a number one question I get. I’m always amazed when people actually read my bio and they asked what is — it’s actually pronounced Reiki.
Jared Correia: Reiki, I was so close.
Molly McGrath: Yeah. I’m a certified master Reiki trainer and honestly about three years ago, I went back and I started looking for different modalities to support our clients by and large attorneys that are always looking for strategy and looking for systems process in regards to their training and getting over their hurdles and up-leveling their practice.
And I started digging deeper to see what is some of the blocks that these attorneys and humans in general that they have and stumbled upon Reiki and put myself through the program and by and large what it is, it’s a big part of my practice when there’s some subconscious blocks either around money, around people, around having the confidence to uplevel their business and take it to the next level and it really is a practice that supports them with removing a lot of their patterns and limiting beliefs from the subconscious to allow them to actually integrate this strategy and all the traditional business building modalities that they are accustomed to.
Jared Correia: So I thought it was like maybe a discipline of Kung Fu. I thought you like beating people, but this is better, and I can see how it fits in with your business model.
So let’s talk about that a little bit. There’s this old axiom that good people are hard to find, right but you go out and find good people, that’s like your job.
So in my consulting practice, I get a lot of questions from lawyers about how to hire. So if we can dig into that a little bit that would be great.
So in the first instance like what advice do you have for a law firm that needs to begin to identify their staffing needs, like before they go ahead and try to hire somebody like how do they find out like who they need to hire?
Molly McGrath: Yeah, I love that question. When I get phone calls from attorneys saying they need to hire and most often they believe they know exactly what they need to hire until I start peeling away the layers of the onion and asking them some really powerful questions.
And I always tell them listen, I want you to take the next five days and start writing down everything that you touch, that you absolutely despise that’s robbing your energy, that’s robbing your time and that it’s not a good use of your time and I want every person in your law firm from paralegal to the associate to the receptionist that’s answering the phone, do the exact same activity, and I want you all to just track your time of what rate from a scale to one to five, five being the highest of what really empowers you and invigorate you and you feel like it’s a good use of your time, and what just sucks the life out of you.
And have it them scan me their analysis at the end and then I whiteboard everything and you can do this yourself in your own law firm and it’s very crystal clear around, when you start compiling everybody’s what they don’t want to be doing any longer and/or where it’s really robbing their time and not a great ROI, that where it is that you need to hire. Because a lot of times you can compile anywhere from the receptionist to the paraprofessional, paralegal, to the associate attorneys to the primary attorneys and you will always see a common theme.
And for the most part that would give you a very good picture of where to start to hire someone to free up your space so you can start working on your top revenue producing activities and then be able to bring somebody else in that can take over the duties that are not the best use of your time.
Jared Correia: I like that. That’s like a stealthy way to get people to think about delegation. That’s smart.
Molly McGrath: Yes.
Jared Correia: So once that part of it is done like once you’ve identified like okay who do I need, what does that person look like, do you have some tips about the best strategy for actually finding candidates because I think a lot of lawyers would say okay I know I need like a paralegal or something, but how do I actually reach out and find somebody who could fit that role?
Molly McGrath: You know in this day and age the day of slapping up an ad on Indeed or Craigslist or LinkedIn whatever your different platforms that you’re accustomed to and getting a hundred resumes, they’re over. It’s really an employee’s market right now and I would tell attorneys that for the beginning of your ad, you really need to start selling your culture, because in this day and age when we interview candidates it’s no longer just about the money or the 401(k) or the traditional benefits that people were seduced to in the past, especially since 2008, and now they really want to know about the culture. They want to know about what type of team building is available for them, what type of mentorship and those, I love that, because those are the questions we get from potential candidates first and foremost.
So I would say write an ad that is about your culture and selling that first and foremost because nobody ever reads the job descriptions or the requirements or anything, you can put them in there from an SEO perspective, but your first paragraph really needs to be about your core values and your vision and your mission without using all the stuffy words, but really painting the Disney experience if you will of what is going to get people to apply to your ad versus the old stuffy traditional ones.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that’s something that’s probably totally foreign to most lawyers, like you don’t see a lot of lawyers thinking about the Disney experience and I would imagine that that’s even more important for younger employees like the younger youth skew benefits culture that stuff is probably more important as I’m guessing right?
Molly McGrath: You would be surprised, it’s more so of the 50 plus that I’m seeing that, there’s stigma that all this millennial jargon that’s been thrown around but it really is for some of the seasoned paraprofessionals, paralegals, attorneys that have been in a law firm for 20 years and they’re burned out because it’s all about the billable hour, it’s all about just hustle, hustle, hustle and you get very little time or attention and they’re older, they’ve already got maybe a stocked 401(k) or they have a spouse that offers benefits and things that nature, it’s not about the money.
And they are realizing — this my last Swan song, my last 10 years or 15 years and I’m going to be having a job. This is going to be my last job that I want, and they’re really asking the questions about the culture etc. because now it’s about impact and now it’s about difference making versus more so they can match that with their skills and their knowledge that they have versus the Paycheck that people have this belief that Millennials in or the older generation are always worried about the money and the money will come but first and foremost they need to be connected to the heart and soul of the business.
Jared Correia: Okay, I stepped right into that stereotype so you can answer that question. That’s interesting though. I had no idea. So let’s talk a little bit about where you go from there right, you’ve identified who you need, you’ve attracted some candidates and like you talked about the idea is not to go on Indeed and get like thousands of resumes, but you still have like a stack of resumes to whittle down. So how can a lawyer go by selecting the right candidates? Do you have any tips that would be able to like thin that pile of resumes more quickly?
Molly McGrath: I love that question. Here’s that I would say, pick up the phone and call every single one that you have, because you’re probably going to get 20 or 30 other than somebody who clearly is not qualified, hasn’t worked in an executive or professional environment.
But so often attorneys especially in law firms get seduced by the resume. A lot of times attorneys will say to me because that’s what we do hiring, they say I want to see the resume first, and I say absolutely not, you can’t even look at the resume, you need to meet this person and nine out of ten times, they will say to me if you would have sent that resume to me I would have totally trashed it and put it in the shredder and never talked to that person, because people are not professional writers, they’re not copy writers especially paralegals are very analytical. They don’t sell their self properly. But when I get on the phone with them and start talking to them and get into the nitty-gritty of their skill set, what the job description is, you’d be amazed, I mean like this does not even reflect anywhere on your resume. But people don’t traditionally know how to write, how to sell themselves in a resume.
So what I would say is as much as possible pick up the phone and don’t worry about the resume, you want to hear people’s energy, their essence, you want to start digging in asking them about their skills or knowledge or experience from either the technical piece of it but also the human side of things and how they work within a team.
I always say you can always train skills, you can always train knowledge, it’s the human side unless you’re professional psychologist or you have a professional coach on staff, it’s next to impossible to teach integrity, attitude and drive.
Jared Correia: That’s great. I really like that. So you start with the attitude and the professionalism it will go from there. That’s really fascinating, like I couldn’t imagine like a lawyer like looking at a resume and then picking up the phone actually calling someone before a formal interview. So I thought it’s a really great strategy.
Molly McGrath: And it’s a great way for them to save their time. I can blow through about 30 phone calls in under an hour versus an old-school way is that you schedule an hour of time and you bring people into your office and say you find three five qualified candidates based on their resume. You have five hours invested and chances are you’re lucky if you have one good candidate.
I always equate it to like the dating process. You have to kiss a hundred frogs before you meet a prince, you have to just call and dial and talk to people and in one hour, probably under one hour you could get through the whole stack and in within seconds you can figure out who has the right — just based on how they, their voicemail sound, you would be amazed by that how many people get disqualified right there.
It’s just fascinating and it’s a much more efficient effective way to do it whether it doesn’t have to be the attorney, find the person in the front of the house, a receptionists, a paralegal, somebody who really understands what the ins and outs of the position are and they would be your greatest betting sourcing process.
Jared Correia: That’s pretty good, we are after a hot start here and I’m almost loathe to take a break, but we have some things to sell. So these are some of the things that you should buy.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for hanging with us today. We’re back after break number one. Now that I’ve located my collection of Garbage Pail Kids Cards, let’s get back to our conversation with Molly McGrath of Hiring & Empowering Solutions. We’re here talking about talent acquisition and team building.
So finding and acquiring talent is probably part one, right Molly, but then in many cases you’ll have to develop that talent, even when they come into your space, into your work space. So broadly speaking, how important do you think it is for law firms to develop effective training programs for new hires?
Molly McGrath: I think it’s more important than the hiring process.
Jared Correia: Oh good answer.
Molly McGrath: It is so critical. I can’t tell you how many times candidates will call us they’ve been in the law firm for a week, two weeks, 30 days and they will call us and say I’m out, I’m quitting, nobody gives us any time, attention, everyone was so excited for me to be there. They dumped their junk drawer on my desk and I get very little time, attention, feedback, training, anything of that nature.
So it’s really, really critical to set up a process from day one of setting your expectations. And I always say build it out in bite-sized pieces where you are setting goals for maybe the first week and then reconnecting with the candidate making certain they’re very clear concise and well communicated, where everybody can clarify and verify them and have these huddles with them to track and measure their progress versus just bringing them in and then next thing you know you don’t have any communication or training. Most law firms will just annual reviews and that’s why they always say, it’s very hard to find good talent and to keep them, but you can keep great talent if you give them time, attention and feedback.
Jared Correia: Yeah, the typical law firm on-boarding model is, here’s your computer and log in have at it, right, but like that’s obviously not workable. So I think my obvious follow-up question to you is, so how does a law firm actually go about building a training, and on-boarding regime that works? Do you have any tips for that?
Molly McGrath: Yeah, we actually have on our website a suggested 90-day training process. That will definitely give your listeners for free. But regardless of what position they’re in the associate or partner or the receptionist, it’s starting out day one and mapping out what you — I always say this is a million dollar question, what make you absolutely delighted and over the moon in 30 days if this employee could perform the following. And then from there you have the ability to just chug out what it is, how they’re going to get it, by when and what resources are available to them because 9 out of 10 times you can have resources available from either your different organizations that you belong to on the internet and or sending them to training or your existing employees can support them.
And then from there making certain that whoever is responsible for communicating and training and interacting with this employee that they are in that meeting, that they are involved in at every step of the way, because the goal is to remove the primary attorney from having to manage or to facilitate any of the training and they can empower their employees to take it over.
Jared Correia: That’s cool and so on-boarding of course though, is only one piece of like the employment lifecycle. So part of this as well as ongoing resources, like many lawyers are required to keep up to date on their substantive practice and professionalism, but in terms of law firm training and management like that’s often an ignored part of this.
So step one is to getting the on-boarding program in place, so you get your first 90 or so days covered, what happens after that? How do you keep your employees involved and on the right track?
Molly McGrath: So great question. We recommend that you hold a weekly meeting with your entire firm and team. We call it a stakeholders meeting where you are going through KPIs for the week. You’re going through all your workflows and everything that’s responsible going through the calendar. All the pieces of the people, process and profit of a business and when you have consistent communication, you’re meeting every week with tracking and measurement and KPIs for each person in the team.
It’s amazing how they just come together and are very solidified and almost create this internal fun competitive edge of — nobody’s going to show up at that meeting each week with egg on their face and they cannot give you in a snap the state of the union on their piece of the process that they’re working. So it’s number one.
Number two, I cannot say enough about making certain that you perform the old-school terminology is employee evaluations or employee reviews, we like to call it a growth plan where each person is very connected to the overall arching firm plan, but also their personal performance and what’s in it for them and their own piece of the pie of what they’re working.
So making certain that you are having periodic, I like over communication and over coaching with new employees coming on. So I recommend every 30 days for the first four or five months and then after that moving it to quarterly and for even seasoned and veteran employees making certain that you don’t go more than a quarter without doing a growth plan and/or evaluation with them.
Jared Correia: Over communication, not a term I’ve heard in legal practice before, but I like it.
Molly McGrath: Yes.
Jared Correia: So, I think even though we’ve under communicated to this point, let’s take a break and do our over communication in this next segment, which is going to be the last part of the show. So while I try to tie a winter knot possibly unsuccessfully, listen to these words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right. Thanks for coming back for our last segment. We are now at the grand finale portion of our show, time flies, let’s continue our conversation however with Molly McGrath of Hiring & Empowering Solutions, who is telling us all about how to acquire talent and build teams. So let’s find out more.
So you have talked a lot Molly about finding the right talent, on-boarding people effectively, that’s all good. So more broadly speaking like I think you are on top of your game as far as this industry is concerned. So what trends are you personally seeing in terms of legal hiring?
Molly McGrath: A few things that I am seeing now in regards to legal hiring, number one the unemployment rate I think I mentioned earlier has never been at an all time low. So in regards to hiring, it’s an employees’ market and like I said earlier, I would talk to as many people as you are possibly can and once you find a candidate who has the human side of things, they have the personality, they have the integrity, you can always invest in the training.
So the trends are that it’s people are getting hammered by recruiters day in and day out. I cannot tell you I’ll have candidates that are all vetted and lined up for interviews like this morning and two of them dropped out, they’re like, I got a better offer. People are offering massages, manicures, pedicures, more vacation whatever it is to be able to get them and to keep them in.
So what I would say as much as you can make certain you keep your eye on your employees, do those evaluations, have weekly communication and stand-up meetings or stakeholders meetings with them, creating team building, team bonding and strategic retreats, if that is not embedded within your standard operating procedures, I would do that ASAP. That’s my number one tip for you for vetting and bringing on new employees but also retaining and keeping your own employees because if anyone’s a superstar or they have a pretty decent resume or rap sheet chances are that they’re getting hammered by recruiters, because I think the last number I saw for associate attorneys, the unemployment rate is 1.8% nationally and for paralegals last I saw it was under 3%, which we’ve never seen that in the history of time.
Jared Correia: Good Lord. I feel like I should put my resume out there again. So you’re telling me I can get massages with a new job.
Molly McGrath: I think you are unemployable.
Jared Correia: Oh man, alas, that would have been sweet. I have to pay for my own massages I guess. Oh well, all right, so you talk about empowerment a lot and you kind of address that in the answer to the last question, right. I mean part of your company name is about empowerment.
So you’ve talked about employees but like how can managers feel empowered in a law firm environment, especially in a space where like it’s really an employee’s market?
Molly McGrath: Yeah I could say as a manager whether you’re the business owner, you’re COO or law firm administrator, the biggest investment you can make is getting in a coaching environment of some sort where you are making certain that you’re taking care of your mindset, you’re taking care of your stress level and your overwhelm level and your communication to your team.
So in this day and age if you are not connected with number one, a professional organization in your field, so if you’re in estate planning, there’s probably 5-10 different professional organizations that create and allow not only the technical legal training and the skill set training, but typically have a coaching and/or consulting component to it.
I can tell you hands down the law firms that I work with in the past 22 years, the greatest success is not about their marketing strategy, it’s not about the number of — numbers or letters or whatever diplomas they have hanging on their wall, it has nothing to do with it, it’s 100% attached to their ability to be in a coaching environment and have a professional coach that is working with them, number one, and/or their team and it could be together, it could be separate, but at some point I think it’s also making that investment in bringing in people to manage and run and facilitate your strategic quarterly retreats, hopefully you’re doing something of that nature that is constantly just breathing new light and energy into the business.
And then also keeping you a little humble and honest and grounded as an entrepreneur because we know we’re just getting hammered by two by fours every single day. You have got clients lining up, you have referral sources, you have employees lining up, everyone’s staring at you, looking at the answer and sometimes it’s very difficult to manage your energy and not be able to what I always say is puke that all over your team.
And it does run like a cancer sometimes, most often through the office if it’s not managed.
Jared Correia: Yeah. So on the other hand, it’s a good time to be an employee clearly and maybe you’ve already answered this question to an extent because apparently people who are applying for jobs now are getting free mani-pedis, right, but are there ways that employees or staff can empower themselves in a law office setting, like post-hire?
Molly McGrath: Absolutely. I’m always amazed when I do the hiring. I always – I interview people from my mindset and emotional intelligence and a personal and professional development perspective first and foremost.
So if they have what we call batteries included and they have that drive and that really they want to grow an up level as a human and as a professional what I would highly recommend for them is if they’re in a culture where the law firm does have a coaching environment and asking the right questions of — asking the entrepreneur, your manager, your supervisor whatever, whomever that might be, what you can do to invest in your future and bring it back to your skill set, your job.
So for example, we have a Team Empowerment Academy that is only for employees that is a 12-week program to teach them how to think and act like what we call an entrepreneur, in entrepreneurs world so they don’t own the business, but they have the bones, they have in every fiber of their being.
They use terminology like our clients, they use words like we, they don’t say I and they’re really invested and so you can get involved in any program like that, reading as much as possible that you can, there’s so many fascinating books such as one of my favorite go to is E-Myth.
There’s a E-myth for Attorneys that’s a phenomenal book that really teaches you how to think and act like a business owner so you can protect your attorneys’ time and energy and be able to come to them with proposed solutions versus constant problems.
Jared Correia: Good stuff, all right, let’s go back into the past for a moment. I just learned this about you before you became like a recruiting guru, you used to work at Friendly’s Ice Cream, right, that was like one of your first jobs?
Molly McGrath: Yes.
Jared Correia: All right and I volunteered that my mom, also her first job was working at Friendly’s Ice Cream. So thinking back to your past are, you a Carvel person as well?
Molly McGrath: Oh yes, Tom the Turkey.
Jared Correia: All right. So I got to ask you, like because I have a strong opinion on this. So there are two Carvel ice cream cakes that people will buy usually. There’s Fudgie the Whale, who’s a delicious chocolate whale and then there’s Cookie Puss, which is a face made of cookies. Do you have a preference between those two? So probably the most important question I’m going to ask you.
Molly McGrath: Okay so I might disappoint you here but after carving ice cream and shoveling it at the mall for I think my first job for a year I have not eaten ice cream in 22 years.
Jared Correia: No. It’s so disappointing. All right so I’ll feel this question, Cookie Puss is always the answer. Fudgie the Whale is good but if you really want it — if you really want to get an ice cream cake that’s going to blow your mind Cookie Puss is the way to go.
Unfortunately, I don’t think you can get Carvel in Colorado. So if you do decide that you want to change things up a little bit and eat ice cream for the first time in 22 years, you let me know I’ll just freeze dry some Carvel your way.
Molly McGrath: My kids would love that.
Jared Correia: All right and on that note, I think that’s a perfect way to end the show and we’ve reached the end of yet another episode of The Legal Toolkit podcast. This was a podcast about ice cream cakes, town acquisition and team building. And we’ve been talking with Molly McGrath of Hiring & Empowering Solutions.
Now I’ll be back on future shows with further insights into my Soul, the Soul of America and the Legal Market. If you’re feeling nostalgic from my dulcet tones however you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com.
So thanks again to Molly McGrath of Hiring & Empowering Solutions for making an appearance as my guest today.
All right Molly, can you tell everyone how they can find out more about you and about Hiring & Empowering Solutions?
Molly McGrath: Absolutely. So simply you can go to our website hiringandempowering.com and on there, there’s a — we’ve been blogging for since 2008, you can join our blog there. There’s also a tab to start listening to our podcasts as well where we speak into everything around hiring and empowering your employees.
Jared Correia: All right folks check it out. And I will say thanks again to Molly McGrath of Hiring & Empowering Solutions. I have no regrets having around the show even though she doesn’t ice cream, which is shameful.
Finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. This has been The Legal Toolkit podcast where dreams really do come true.
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