I wanted to circle back to a column that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post and ABA Journal. A small firm “middle manager” wrote into the WaPo complaining that he kept hiring terrible associates:
I’m in middle management at a small law firm. Of every three associates we hire, we inevitably part with two within a year. The pattern is always the same: The associate is hired, struggles with his hours for the first few months, and then develops problems maintaining a responsible level of contact with clients. Then he struggles with deadlines, and finally when the partners and I are at our wits’ end, the associate pretty much stops working, stops billing and becomes a liability. We offer training and performance plans, we have scheduled weekly meetings with the associates, and we’re small so someone is always available for guidance. Is firing people just the way it is?
It sounds to me like this guy has a terrible eye for talent. The Washington Post (rightly, I think) highlights several factors that can help this guy become a better interviewer. But advice columnist Lily Garcia also offers this tip:
But there’s no guarantee your new associate will make it. If an employee is struggling, it is easy to assume it’s because of poor attitude or lack of ability. But environmental factors, such as an employee’s training, support and supervisory relationship, most accurately predict success.
If 66% of your people are washing out, it’s probably not because 66% of the law students you hire are functionally useless. I can’t imagine what firm the advice seeker works for, but lets hope management heeds this basic advice.
Explaining Your Credit History; and the Case of the Vanishing Lawyers [Washington Post]