Whether you own a law firm and want to grow, or you’re an attorney working solo who has too much on their plate, you must consider what type of person you want to work with. Orders can be followed by anyone. However, it is skills that will determine success. Strong skills can make everyday tasks run more smoothly, easily, and quickly. Your new team member can either be beneficial for you and your practice (and your pocket), or detrimental. This is why, whether you decide to outsource or do it yourself, it is critical to pay attention to the hiring process. If done correctly, it can save you a lot of headaches in the future.
When adding a new member to your team, you want them to have a broad understanding of the specific tasks they’ll perform, but even then, things can change. For this reason, they’ll need to know how to conduct themselves in those situations. A perfect example is when laws are amended, which happens quite often, as you know. Your legal assistant must be able to stay current, adapt to different situations, and conduct research. They must understand how to conduct accurate information searches and how to avoid questionable sources of information. Furthermore, every now and then you might need help with something that isn’t strictly related to their everyday activities. If they are critical thinkers and problem solvers, they will have the instinct and motivation to learn the information or tools required to complete the task.
2. Business awareness
Understanding how the legal industry works is essential for a legal assistant. You need someone who understands how to support your practice in order for you to succeed. You don’t want to spend time explaining legal documentation or terminology, document drafting, what to expect in certain cases, what to avoid, etc. A good way to know if your legal assistant is business-aware is by looking at their employment history and what their everyday tasks looked like in their past jobs. This will give you an idea of what area they’re used to handling on a daily basis, and you’ll learn what other knowledge they’ll need to acquire as well.
3. Interpersonal skills
It’s not a secret that in the legal profession there will be stressful times, difficult people to deal with, attorneys that seem to be always in a hurry, or unhappy clients. A capable legal assistant should be able to deal with these situations. They should not only be prepared to perform their daily activities without these situations interfering with their practice, but they also should be courteous and empathetic with each person that they interact with. Communication plays a huge role as well. Legal assistants are constantly answering phone calls, writing emails, and communicating with clients. They’re the first faces people see, and, therefore, having excellent spoken and written communication skills is a must. One way to assess their interpersonal skills is through interviews and tests that you can run throughout the hiring process. Creating and implementing a couple of tests that are specifically meant to show what type of candidate you’re dealing with will make your whole process much more accurate and easier. If this is your first time hiring a legal assistant, you may be unsure about the types of tests your candidate should take. You might want to do some research first or even outsource to avoid the hassle of creating the whole plan yourself. Either way, make sure to be specific about the qualities you want your future legal assistant to have.
Legal assistants, just like attorneys, are constantly dealing with private, sensitive information that, if found in the wrong hands, can jeopardize the attorney’s work. You need to make sure that you have someone in your team that can be discreet with this kind of matter and that won’t see it as an opportunity to use it to their own advantage. In order to be sure that this person is trustworthy, we highly recommend making background checks and asking for previous job references to learn more about this person. Take this step seriously because even though it may feel like it’s just one more part of the process, it is definitely worth doing right if you want to prevent any malpractice that could affect your reputation.
Most legal assistants work on multiple files and cases at the same time. Knowing how to manage everything while also being able to prioritize effectively what is most important is a must for any assistant. However, as a legal assistant, this is very much expected and needed due to the pace at which legal matters often run. In the legal environment, you can’t waste time or miss a deadline since that would mean risking weeks of work and potentially losing a client. If you want to know whether your legal assistant can multitask or not, give them a list of the typical tasks that they’d need to do for you. In addition, do some unusual things or duties that are not normally performed every day. Then, ask them to prioritize all the tasks on the list and, in an imaginary scenario, ask them how they could manage to multitask using that same list; what couple of activities they could do at the same time and why they chose them; and what makes it easier for them to multitask between those two or more tasks.
These are just some of the most important skills that we, as a staffing agency, notice that the attorneys we work with find most useful and beneficial for their practice.
If finding out about your potential legal assistant’s skills sounds like a stressful and time-consuming process, always remember that when outsourcing with Stafi, we do this process for you. We take care of the hiring process, the interviews, the tests, as well as the HR obligations. Selecting a good, capable legal assistant for you or your firm is a process that should be taken seriously, yet it doesn’t have to be dreadful if done with the right people. Don’t hesitate to give us a call.