Category: Hiring & Firing

Job Opportunity – Attorney

job interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lycoming County Public Defender’s Office in Williamsport, PA has an opening for an Assistant Public Defender.  A recent JD graduate who has passed the Bar is suitable.  Applicant must also be a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and possess a valid driver’s license. Interested applicants should mail directly to

William J. Miele, Esquire
Chief Public Defender
48 West Third Street
Williamsport, PA 17701

Be sure to include:

  • writing sample
  • cover letter
  • resume

The position will require assisting indigent clients in defense, children and youth, juvenile court, mental health and parole violations.

A Law Firm with a Sense of Humor

Is it an oxymoron to say law firm and sense of humor in the same sentence?  Apparently not.  Creating a fun atmosphere attracts employees.

Back in the day when I managed firms hands-on, I tried to introduce humor into the workplace whenever possible.  My colleagues at other firms did not approve.  They thought everything about law firm life should be serious, dignified, and . . . yawn . . . never fun.  I never had a problem encouraging some of their top employees to make a leap to the environment I worked so hard to craft.

This week’s edition of ABA Journal Law News Now headlined a story entitled “Fake Summer Associate Hired in Prank by Law Firm”.  Of course, I had to look at the article and accompanying video.  Hilarious!  And a great recruiting tool, too!  You can be sure that associates across the country who are looking for a great work environment where they can have fun and do challenging work as well, will be hankering for a chance to join their team.

Jay Edelson is the founder and managing partner of Edelson LLC, as well as the instigator of this great prank.  KUDOS, Jay.  Your firm’s web site says your firm is different from other firms in most aspects, and clearly that is true.  You’ve figured out that hard work and a fun work environment are not mutually exclusive.  And in fact, when you actually allow and even encourage people to enjoy themselves while working, you will always get greater dedication and a superior work product.  If you can introduce fun into the learning process, it will enhance the process considerably.

There’s much to be learned from this simple prank.  Read Edelson’s blog post from Oct 15, 2009 in ABA’s Legal Rebels, in which he describes his training / mentoring philosophy.  Take it to heart.  He knows whereof he speaks.

 

Use of Criminal Records in Hiring Decisions

I was instructing a class of 2L and 3L students at Drexel’s Earl Mack School of Law this past Monday, and included was my recommendation to use a credit and criminal records check for any potential new hire who would be handling client money, as a fraud prevention strategy .  In passing I indicated that there are certain legalities which will apply in order to do it properly, so as not to discriminate or violate privacy rights.

Today I received a Labor and Employment Alert from Ballard Spahr entitled “OFCCP Issues Guidance on Use of
Criminal Records in Employment Decisions” and the timing could not have been more perfect.  The guidance issued on this topic was issued by the EEOC Commission on April 25, 2012.

I continue to be grateful to Ballard Spahr’s hard-working and knowledgeable attorneys who keep pushing essential information out to people like me, in clearly understandable language.  It’s not the first time I have cited them and provided a compliment — something I don’t give too freely.

Attorneys have an obligation under Rule 1.15 [Safekeeping Property] to exercise a reasonable amount of care and due diligence in protecting client property.  When hiring employees who will handle client money — bookkeeper, estate paralegal, secretary in a small firm — the firm should check into the applicant’s criminal and credit history.  Failing to do so can have serious consequences, not least of which is the PR.  One law firm in Montgomery County found out the hard way.  They hired an estate paralegal without doing a reference check, let alone a criminal or credit check.  Only after money was stolen did they discover that the employee had previously worked for a law firm in New York, where she had been arrested for the same crime, and was out on bail when the PA firm hired her.  She was paying restitution to her former firm from the funds she was stealing from her new employer.  That’s about as bad as it gets.

Be sure to review the EEOC Guidance, or consult with a qualified attorney, so that you do it properly, and in a manner which does not have a disparate impact based on race or ethnicity, or any other protected category.  Yes, you have to be careful.  However, failing to check at all is taking a greater risk, and may create exposure for your firm for failing to take reasonable precautions in determine who handles client property.

While I’m doling out thanks, I wish to express my appreciation to Debra Speyer, the adjunct profession at Earl Mack, for bringing me back as a guest lecturer again this year.  I provided the students with an introduction to best practices for financial and procedural management.  It feels great knowing that at least a few of the new generation of baby lawyers will have some “real world” practical information when they graduate and join a firm or hang out their shingle.

Hiring for One Set of Criteria and Firing for Another

Hiring is not a precise science.  Mistakes happen, and need prompt correction.  Firms rarely fire too quickly when a mistake is made.  Usually it’s the opposite, with the firm letting things drag out far too long.  It’s put off because firing is unpleasant, and also because it’s an irrefutable admission that the hiring was a mistake.  You can greatly increase your success rate by hiring based on the same criteria that lead you to fire.

The fact that law firms typically hire based on skill and experience, but fire based on habits and attitudes, is the primary reason why lawyers are usually so terrible at making hiring decisions.  But you’re not alone.  Many HR professionals and administrators make the same mistake.

This topic was the basis for the brief presentation at last night’s reception at the Blue Bell, PA recruiting firm of Morgan Wentworth.   The purpose of the reception was to introduce Morgan Wentworth’s new Director of Legal Recruitment, Meg Halloran, Esquire.  Switching between two different brightly colored scarves, Meg posed as job applicant Amy, and then Bev.  I posed as the interviewer.  The program was entitled “My Best Secret Interview Questions.”

Meg Halloran, Esq (left) and Ellen Freedman (right)

 

Each applicant answered one of my sure-fire “behavioral” interview questions.  Then the audience was polled as to which candidate they favored, and why.  Each of the three questions posed clearly revealed the difference in attitude and initiative that a typical interview would not.

Asking open-ended questions which reveal subjective information regarding how a candidate resolves difficult issues, organizes workflow, handles conflict or stressful conflicting deadlines, reveals far more about the person.  Compare that to objective questions which may reveal years of experience, class ranking, number of appearances as first chair in court and so forth.  Objective questions will tell you only whether the candidate meets your skill and experience requirements.  It will not reveal whether they will thrive in your environment, or rise to the challenges you present.

Kudos to Patricia Mosesso and Ernie Szoke, founders and owners of Morgan Wentworth, for putting together a first-class reception.  The conference room and adjoining office were crammed with attendees who enjoyed food, drink, and conversation with familiar and new faces on an otherwise dreary weeknight.  I am appreciative of having been invited to design and present the short informational program.   And I greatly enjoyed working on it with Meg.  She was a great sport, and turned out to be quite the actress.

(Left to right) Patricia Mosesso, Ernie Szoke, Meg Halloran, Esq.

 

Hiring? Hire a Qualified Veteran and Get a Tax Break

Did you know your firm can get a tax break by hiring a veteran?  It’s not always easy to find the right job candidate, and adding another qualifying factor makes it even more difficult.  But the potential tax break is worth the extra effort.  And let’s not forget that a lot of the veterans seeking jobs have a myriad of skills which are suitable for law firms — technology, administrative, and lawyers as well.

In November 2011, Congress enacted the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which increases aid for vet­erans in education and training, job counseling, transi­tion and placement, and disability programs. It also provides specific tax credits for hiring certain veterans. These tax incentives range from $2400 for hiring veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months, to $9600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.

If Your Employment Is Terminated

It always amazes me how surprised some people are when the axe falls.  Over the years I have witnessed the incredulity from attorneys, administrators, and staff at all levels.  Sometimes the signs are so clear you can’t imagine why the person doesn’t exit under their own steam.  But usually it’s obvious to everyone except the appropriate party.

When I was an active member of the Association of Legal Administrators, I used to advise my peers to always be prepared to come to work and find someone else sitting at their desk, with all their mementos packed in boxes, ready to be carried to their car after their keys were confiscated.   (Yes, it happened more than once to respected colleagues.)   Being prepared in my world meant having copies of evaluations, complimentary memos, and particularly excellent reports at home.  It meant keeping the list of contacts updated at home; not just at the office.  It meant always keeping one’s resume current, and on the home computer.   And so forth.

For example, having a current list of key vendor names and telephone numbers at home makes a huge difference when it comes to a job search, because they often know which firms are searching to fill slots.  For an attorney, having access to the names, phone numbers, mailing and email addresses for every active client in which a principal role is played by the attorney is essential.  (But keep in mind that you cannot download and keep a copy of the firm’s entire client list — that would constitute theft of firm confidential information.)

A post on the Attorney at Work blog entitled “Preparing for the Axe to Fall” is definitely worth a read.  I suggest you follow the advice.

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Social Media and Job Interviews

Just in case you haven’t yet pondered the connection between social media and job interviews, (meaning you didn’t read my blog post of 1-4-2011) here is another great blog post on the topic.   The post is entitled “Behind the Resume” and is written under the pen name of Otto Sorts – A Curmudgeon’s Perspective.   His blogs are regularly picked up by Attorney-At-Work‘s Daily Dispatch.   You can read more of Otto’s rants at his own blog site, humorously titled “Hey You Kids Get Off My Site!”

The point in bringing this up again is that if you’re a law firm interviewing candidates for any job, you should be doing an online search of social media to find out more about them.    Admittedly Otto’s final take on how you should handle the information may be different than yours or that of your firm.  But the bottom line is you want to gather as much strategic information about job candidates as you can.

For those of you about to interview for a job, or dust off and update your resume, don’t forget to look yourself up online to see what’s there.  Still showing those wild spring break photos?  Be prepared to discuss anything about you or your life which is found online with a prospective employer.  If you haven’t put anything out there yet, I strongly advise you use real restraint.  As you will find out the hard way, it’s very easy to add stuff, and almost impossible to remove it.

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