Growing your legal team is always exciting - but how do you start with your next hire? Who should it be? We explore the benefits of hiring a paralegal to join your team, and answer some frequently asked questions.
How do you know if you need to hire a paralegal?
If you have too much work on your plate, and it’s slowing the business down and preventing you from supporting on high-value work, it’s a good case to hire a paralegal into your team.
How do you get buy-in for the hire?
You need to make a strong case for legal headcount. An effective way to do this is by exploring the alternatives to hiring, and figuring out whether they are feasible or not.
Getting buy-in from the business for legal headcount can be difficult, especially when trying to convince revenue-driven stakeholders to redirect resource away from teams like sales, or customer support, or product.
Hiring is a long-term commitment for both the company and the lawyer you're hiring. Make sure you’re not in a position where your business case is shaky by exploring all your alternatives before requesting additional headcount.
- Why not use external counsel? Is there enough work for another lawyer? Do you see the workload decreasing over the short term? If so, will external counsel actually be less expensive than hiring someone full-time?
- Why not use technology? Is your contract process, for example, as efficient as it could be without the need for additional headcount? Will hiring someone resolve that problem, or only redirect it off your plate and onto someone else’s? Is the annual cost of a contract management system less expensive than hiring another lawyer?
- What else can you do to meet the demand? You could work longer hours, but it’s not sustainable in the long run, and will lead to burnout. If you want to complete the work within your office hours, something else needs to give - what should you de-prioritise? How can you make that work visible to the wider business?
Considering your alternatives can help you build a good case for a legal hire.
Is a paralegal the right role for your team?
To figure this out, take a closer look at the work you want your paralegal to do - on which tasks do you need them to do well, and on which tasks can you offer supervision to help them develop?
If you hire an experienced lawyer, they can do the job independently, and brilliantly, only asking a few questions along the way. But experienced lawyers are really expensive, and they’ll be undermotivated if they're not working on the valuable projects they were trained to do.
In an in-house team, every task should ideally be allocated to the most junior person that can complete it - this allocation helps with progression and helps the team feel engaged.
When hiring a new person into your team, look at the work available and figure out the most junior level of lawyer capable of completing it.
How much does it cost to hire a paralegal?
How to assess a paralegal’s skills in an interview
Throughout the interview process, it’s important to assess both soft and hard skills.
Assessing soft skills
For soft skills, we run a values interview at Juro to assess whether candidates align with our company culture, and are able to work well with other teams in the business. For a paralegal hire, this interview would be managed by colleagues outside of legal.
The candidate could be the world’s best paralegal, capable of achieving any task you throw at them - but if they annoy their colleagues and can’t work well with others, it’s a bad hire. Values interviews can help colleagues assess this.
It’s also important to find out about the candidate’s motivators, and see if they align with your own. If they do, there’s a higher chance that you’ll work well together, and that the paralegal will be satisfied in their role and add value to the business. If those motivators don’t align, find out whether the business can still serve them.
There are three main example motivators to consider when hiring a lawyer into your team:
- Are they motivated by work?
- Are they motivated by money?
- Are they motivated by work/life balance?
Candidates are generally motivated by all three, at varying levels - and most businesses can offer benefits, learning & development opportunities, perks and so on, to satisfy these motivators.
Making sure you have a clear understanding of what the candidate wants and what drives them is key to making everyone successful in the company.
Assessing hard skills
When it comes to hard skills, set an assessment that acts as a scaled down version of tasks you would want your paralegal to do on a daily basis.
For example, if you want the paralegal to negotiate basic sales contracts in their role, pull a few clauses from a relevant sales contract to create an assessment of their skills. A liability clause in a commercial contract will paint you an accurate picture of how well the paralegal can negotiate standard terms.
How do you know which paralegal to hire?
Make sure you review the candidate’s performance in the application process by asking yourself these three questions:
- Does the candidate want to work at your company? This measures motivation. Is the paralegal excited to join your team? Do they ask interesting questions? Are they keen to learn? Are they engaged and driven?
- Do you want the candidate to do the job? This question is more about values and how well the candidate can work within your team, but also the wider business.
- Can the candidate do the job? Do they have the technical skills to complete the tasks you will assign them? Have they demonstrated a strong understanding of the work through written or practical assessments throughout the application process?
How to measure success in your paralegal
You can measure success in different ways after the paralegal has signed the offer letter and joined your team.
For example, if you hired a paralegal to complete a certain project, you can measure success by their quality of work and time taken to actually complete that project.
If your paralegal is a long-term hire, you can measure success by how long you plan on retaining that employee, how you plan to help them develop, and how you aim to keep them motivated and successful.
Success is defined as something that benefits both you, as the employer, and the paralegal - so make sure you consider their motivators too.
Offering the paralegal progression they've asked for is not a negative outcome if it serves them well - in fact, having someone on board who can add value and then continue to climb up the career ladder elsewhere should be considered a huge win for you as their manager.