Be Honest When You Recruit

managing-the-professional-service-firm.jpg“One lawyer I know describes his firm’s recruiting process as follows: “I describe the real life of being a lawyer as best I can. Then I ask them, ‘Do you really want to be a lawyer?’ It’s amazing how many hesitate. And if they do, I don’t want them. I’d rather take someone with slightly less skill but with fire in their belly than a brilliant but naive student who doesn’t understand what it’s all about.”

“Such an approach to recruiting may not produce the raw numbers that many firms think they need (because potentially good candidates are ’scared off’), but this is a less serious error than the opposite result: bringing people on board who are not temperamentally suited to today’s practice realities. Furthermore, a professional firm should always have slightly more work than it can handle with its current staff putting in a normal work week. Professionals flourish with a full workplate in an atmosphere of challenge. Expressions of discontent, complaints about the firm, and poor morale never surface more frequently than when there is not enough work to keep everyone occupied. I have observed more firms get into trouble by attempting to hire too many people than by hiring too few.”

– David Maister, in Managing the Professional Service Firm, Chapter 15 “The Motivation Crisis” (1997)

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