Your firm is growing, and it's time to hire some new employees! First, congratulations are in order! Now comes the hard part: finding an employee that is smart, capable, and hard-working. Hiring is a stressful process, for both the employee-to-be and the employer. It can be a huge time sink and can have serious consequences if you don't choose the right candidate.
At MerusCase, we've done our fair share of hiring, and we've learned a lot along the way. We've created a very productive and close-knit team (check out Life At Merus), and part of that has been making sure we choose new team members very carefully.
We'd like to share some of the tips we've picked up for the hiring process:
1. Make an (honest) list of your must-have qualifications
The first step is to think about the skills and qualities you'd need in your new hire. Hiring managers often think about the qualities they'd like to have, and that difference can make the hiring process much more complicated. For an administrative assistant, your must-have qualifications might be experience answering phones, proficiency in Microsoft Word, and strong written and verbal communication skills.
These are 'must-have' qualifications, so if someone doesn't meet these, they don't make the cut. It's easy to blur the lines between a nice-to-have and must-have qualification, so make sure you are honest about which skills will immediately eliminate a prospective new hire.
2. Consider ramp-up time realistically
Every new hire will take some time to get up to peak efficiency. They will need to learn how the office works, who to go to with questions, and which staff you absolutely shouldn't talk to until after they get coffee. However, not all ramp-up time is equal - for example, a receptionist who has worked in a law office before will likely get up to speed faster than a receptionist from a different industry.
That same principle is true for certain skills, and that should be accounted for when comparing candidates. If a candidate hasn't processed mail before, they can pick that up relatively quickly. If a candidate has never used a computer before, that's a bigger issue. Be sure to consider how long it will take for a candidate to build the ideal skill set.
3. Always start with a phone screen
A short 15-20 minute phone interview is a good way to see if a candidate is viable. Have a quick chat with them before bringing them in for an interview - you will save a ton of time during the hiring process.
Ask the candidate about their background, their interests, and their skills. On a basic level, you're just confirming that the candidate can hold a conversation and is personable. Make sure to ask about your must-have qualifications and the candidate's desire to use those skills. The candidate's interest is an important part - your candidate may be great at answering phones and interacting with clients, but if they hate that part of the job they will be much less productive. It's essential to make sure the job is a good fit for the candidate and the employer.
4. Ask questions with real examples
The standard set of interview questions often doesn't cut it - almost every candidate has an answer ready for "What is your biggest strength?" The answer to that question won't 'make or break' an interview.
Think of a challenge that happened in your office in the past month, and ask the candidate how they would handle it. For example, print out an email from a client and ask them to think of an appropriate response. The goal is to test out their ability to apply their skill set to an actual problem they may face.
5. Talk about the reasons your workplace is great
A really great candidate will likely have a few different job offers, so this negotiation goes both ways. It's important to do a little self-promotion and talk about the reasons your staff love to work in your office. Take a moment to show off - talk about your awesome company culture, your office kitchen, or how often your team goes out for happy hour. Even if you don't hire the candidate, they walk away with a positive impression of your firm.
Brian Freeman knows what it's like to scale up his practice - that's what he's been doing for the past 4 years using MerusCase. MerusCase has helped Brian simplify his existing procedures, manage his employees, and greatly increase his caseload, year after year.
This MerusCase Client Spotlight will focus on Brian's firm, Workers' Compensation Lawyer, Inc, and how Brian has used MerusCase to elevate his practice.
I sat down with Brian for a conversation about his success with MerusCase.
Brian started his own Workers' Compensation practice in 2013, dedicated to fighting for the 'Average Joe'. He had used a few different practice management solutions before MerusCase, but found those options lacking.
Brian was first interested in MerusCase for the JETfiling integration with the California courts, and soon noticed the other features that could greatly benefit his practice.
Growing the Firm
Brian's firm has seen substantial growth in recent years, so we discussed the techniques he has used to foster that development.
Q: You mentioned that you've had a lot of case growth. How much would you say your case load has grown since you started using MerusCase?
A: Every year it has more than doubled since I've been using MerusCase.
Another thing is that I've hired more employees, and they all work from home. I give them their own laptops and their own MerusCase accounts. I'm able to see their productivity - I love the dashboard because I can see who is getting things done. I also like the itemized list of firm activities so I can make sure that no one has taken a 2-hour nap! This all really helped me as an owner and manager to know what my staff is doing.
Firm Management and Productivity
Brian and I discussed the ways that his firm has evolved since he started using MerusCase.
Q: Is there a part of your practice where the workflow itself has changed?
A: Yes, due to MerusCase and how fast the firm has grown, I had to evolve my intake process with the demand. When I first started, I used to meet with new clients, explain the paperwork - the physical paper, have them sit there and sign the paperwork, and then scan it into the system. My average intake was about 1 or 2 hours. I knew that wasn't sustainable, so I switched to an electronic sign-up system. That reduced the intake time down to about 15 minutes, and I could drop the electronically-signed documents into MerusCase and do a quick filing.
One workflow thing that is huge: we get tons of mail in workers' comp, and I hired an employee specifically for that reason. I was sick of scanning and processing the mail. Now, she uploads the mail for the day as a Batch Scan into MerusCase. That's super convenient - not only is all that mail not being stored in a giant storage room, but it's so easy to access now. Another employee reviews everything that comes in and sends me only what I need to see. It's really helped my paperless goals. MerusCase made it really easy to get there.
Making the Upgrade
Brian has always been very vocal about his support of MerusCase. Many of Brian's associates have taken his recommendation and are now happy MerusCase clients. I asked Brian about the big incentives to start using MerusCase.
Q: What is your "pitch" to an attorney considering MerusCase? Is there anything in particular that highlights why they should make the switch?
A: I would tell them to make the switch because it will make life so much easier, and your business so much more cost-effective. There is a lot of waste in these "paper-full" offices. You're hiring clerks to paper-file things, paying to store the files in a physical space. Lugging a big physical file through court is a nightmare, especially going up multiple flights of stairs. All I carry is a 12-inch MacBook - it weighs about one pound. That's it. It's so much better and cheaper than doing things the 'old-fashioned way'.
Q: Thanks for your time, Brian. Anything else you'd like to say?
A: Yes, one other main reason why someone should switch to a practice management software like MerusCase: having everything centralized is very important for organization. You don't want to have various systems tied together; it's too much of a technical headache. You want everything in one place. So I love that - all of our contacts in one place, tasks in one place. It does everything that you need to do, all under one hood.
(Wow, Brian could easily write business slogans as a side job.)
Thanks to Brian Freeman of Workers' Compensation Lawyer, Inc for his help with this post.
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