Today, more than ever, it’s imperative for small law firms to hire the right attorneys. Small law firms are hiring contract attorneys and per diem attorneys to avoid the risks and costs of hiring a permanent staff of associates, and the trend is here to stay.
A downside to this cost-effective trend is that law firms that choose this path have to frequently hire new attorneys and trust that each of them has the law firm’s best interests at heart. Hiring the wrong contract or per diem attorney can have expensive and time-consuming repercussions. None of us have excess time to fix someone else’s mistakes and repair a case that has fallen apart.
I’ve been a per diem attorney since 1999. Over the years, I’ve had so many requests for coverage, I’ve often had to hire other per diem attorneys to handle the overflow of cases. Because of that, I created perdiemfirm.com. Now on a daily basis, I hire many attorneys to handle court appearances and depositions for cases throughout the state of New York.
Every time I hire an attorney, I put my firm’s reputation on the line. So I understand firsthand just how critical it is to always hire the right attorneys for the job. Here are the top four lessons I’ve learned about hiring the best per diem attorneys over the years and I hope they help you.
Hire someone everyone likes.
As a long-time per diem attorney in Manhattan, I have great relationships with many attorneys and judges. Over the years there have been many times when judges have been more lenient on my case and enabled me to win arguments I otherwise might not have—all because I’d established a good rapport with them over the years. I’ve also had adversaries who go easy on me when they could have chosen to give my client a very hard time if we didn’t have a solid relationship. One of the ways I assess a potential hire’s likability is to have a long conversation with them that begins with small talk. If I like them, chances are good that others will as well.
Hire someone who has is very experienced at their job.
At this point, I only hire attorneys with over a decade of litigation experience. No matter how specific a case’s instructions are, you never know what could happen in court that will challenge an attorney to make a snap, in-the-moment decision. Experienced attorneys understand what the long-term results are from each decision and know how to handle the unexpected in a way that prevents more work for the small law firm later on.
Hire someone who has specific and relevant experience.
When a request for court coverage comes in, I always hire the attorney who is in that judge’s part every day. Experienced attorneys know intimately that each courtroom is different, with each judge enforcing both official and unofficial rules. Knowing these ins-and-outs can help an attorney achieve the client’s goals much more effectively than one who’s never set foot in that particular courtroom before. A quick way to know if an attorney is familiar with a particular courtroom’s unofficial rules is to pay attention to the questions they ask you about the case.
For example, are they going to a compliance conference but asking for settlement discussions because they know the judge always asks for that? Experienced attorneys can anticipate the questions the judge will ask, so they’ll make sure to get the answers from you before they appear. This will ensure that the correct information is communicated and your firm’s first-rate image is protected.
Hire someone you know.
Before hiring anyone I always have a long conversation with them so I can learn which law firms they’ve worked for as an associate, how long they’ve been a per diem attorney, which law firms they are currently working with, the type of cases they tend to handle and which judges they tend to appear before most frequently. I also conduct a thorough investigation of them online to confirm everything they told me is the truth.
If you follow these four tips, you’ll hire only the best attorneys, your workload will be lightened dramatically, and your reputation in the legal community will be enhanced.