After operating as a one-man shop for three-and-a-half years, I finally received approval to hire some help. I felt like bursting out in a chorus of Hallelujahs!
In my 14-year career, I’ve been sole in-house counsel to three different companies. With any new hire, the first challenge is to convince your bosses you need the additional manpower.
In my case, this was easy enough; I simply showed my bosses my ballooning 20-page “To Do” list. They certainly didn’t want important work falling through the cracks, but neither did they want me to outsource more work.
First, I needed to decide what the best value for the company would be–an attorney or a support person? A paralegal would be less expensive and more satisfied with his or her career track, whereas an attorney might be restless to “climb the ladder” and resent being asked to do all of my menial work.
So a paralegal it was. I’d quest for a 20-plus year litigation pro.
My advice to all in-housers: Fight to maintain control over the hiring process and invest the time to find the right fit. Don’t let HR screen r?? 1/2 sum?? 1/2 s or conduct interviews. No one but you can really know exactly what you’re looking for. I also didn’t favor the idea of using a recruiter (in part because of the money, but also because I didn’t want a “middle man” mucking up the process).
I drafted a detailed list of criteria, then ran some online ads. Despite my “must have” 20-plus years of litigation experience, many of the more than 100 r?? 1/2 sum?? 1/2 s I received were totally off the mark–including a lawyer’s r?? 1/2 sum?? 1/2 from Saudi Arabia and one from Brazil written in Portuguese.
Some responses were utterly zany. One person wrote that if I didn’t hire him based on his “outstanding credenshals,” it would prove I am racist. Another person said she would “consider” the position if I would relocate her from Texas to Southern California.
I selected several promising r?? 1/2 sum?? 1/2 s and scheduled a slew of interviews; I wanted to meet several people and not rush into hiring the first person who seemed adequate enough.
My first interviewee seemed wonderful. She had 25 years of experience, a BA and a paralegal certificate. It soured when she relayed that she required $20,000 more than what I’d advertised. But it cratered when she said that she was looking for a job where she “didn’t have to come into the office each day.” She was hoping to do “a lot of travel.”
Bon voyage. Right out the door.
Candidate No. 2 was just as disappointing. No sooner would I begin a sentence than she’d stampede over it. I finally interjected with an uncharacteristically booming voice, “OK, but I’d like to tell you about BSH, and what I’m looking for.” But she held up a hand and said, “Wait, I’m not done.” She thereupon whipped out a sheet of paper detailing her attributes and declared she was going to read down the list because “I don’t always remember things so well.”
I didn’t have the time. As I escorted her out, she asked, “So, do I have
Candidate No. 3 presented well, but I became suspicious when she declared that she graduated from a certain L.A. law school under a “joint BA/paralegal program.” I contacted the school, and sure enough, it never had such a program.
Candidate No. 4 seemed perfect on paper. I was certain she’d be “the one.” But she arrived 40 minutes late, claiming she’d gotten lost because she forgot to get directions. Post-interview I never received the requisite “thank you.”
While desperation might be unappealing, a mild display of interest would have been nice.
Ultimately I found my perfect candidate just when all hope seemed lost–not through one of my ads, but through a “friend of a friend” of a colleague. It seems I needed a higher power to answer my prayers and get me the help I needed. Hallelujah!