Small law firms are struggling to find great help. I don’t know about you but I see ‘we’re hiring’ posts all over FB.

People are asking all over. I’ve even heard of lawyers who offered a signing bonus to referrals that a lead to a gem employee. I recall that tactic from my corporate days when divisions would offer bonuses to employees who brought in family members.

The nature of work and what it means to be an employee has changed so much. Employees want more than a paycheck today and have plenty of options for earning money (hello, gig economy). I wasn’t surprised to see this article confirming that the hiring pool is a little shallow.

How do you thrive in a tight market?

How do you stand out in the crowd of law firms looking for help? Obviously, you want to be able to hire on your own schedule not when the market dictates to you. You want to be the exception to the rule in a tight hiring market.

First, let’s talk about standing out then treasure hunts.

Law is a commodity

Geez, I hate to say it but it’s true. To a legal consumer, one lawyer isn’t much different than another lawyer. I knew a guy who used his business lawyer to do his divorce. You know that’s wrong. I know that’s wrong. His lawyer should have said that’s wrong. But he had no clue.

Susan Cartier Liebel, founder of Solo Practice University, uses a food analogy to discuss commodification.

Do you, Boo

The best way to stand out is not to act like other law firms. Don’t strive to be lawyerly. Strive to be true to who you are and your mission.
Now, you may not know what that is because, well…emotions + navel-gazing are not favorite lawyer activities.

Defining (or refining) my firm’s culture and values are at the top of my list, said no small firm owner ever. (Am I wrong about that? I’d like to know)
Yet, knowing and accurately conveying your firm’s vibe is exactly what elevates you out of the c-zone.

Think of it this way.

You can get your hair cut just about anywhere these days. Why do you return to your hairstylist? There’s something about her and how she plies her trade that resonates with you. It’s her culture.

You can get that same loyalty to your firm when you’re clear about your culture and how to express that to both clients and new hires.

Before you can write your Law Firm Legend, the origin story of your law firm, think about you. You are the founder of your firm and the Ruler of the Sovereign Nation of YOU. Your thoughts, beliefs, ideals, even jokes, make their way into your law firm culture.

Make yourself aware of your culture . Your goal is to hire someone who is a good cultural fit and believes in your law firm mission.

Love the one you’re with

Do you remember that song? Very free love. Yesterday, an article in the Economist reported that companies, including law firms, are still bad at internal hiring. Too busy looking for the next new thing.

The tendency is to look for a new solution. That’s human nature. Something breaks and we look for the best thing to fix it, which often in our minds, is also the new thing. Hence, recruiting for new hires.

What if your solution to the labor pinch is someone already at your firm? That’s possible, right?

The paralegal who started out with you or the associate that joined you mid-year might be the ‘new hire’ that you are looking for but overlooked because they weren’t new.

You have to give existing hires new challenges and roles to boost their engagement and loyalty. When was the last time that you reassessed your current team and the roles they play? Do they have new skills are training that qualify them for a new role or perhaps, grown in their personal development enough to be a leader. Don’t forget about the jewels you already have!

Why bother with Culture?

Workplace culture is like water. It’s everywhere in so many different forms that it is hard to spot. But I encourage you to make the time to examine what is in your culture and what are the limits. The more you know, the better decisions you can make (and avoid more mistakes) as an owner.

Sunday, join me for my interactive learning and implementation intensive. You’ll discover more how to use culture and systems to grow your law practice, get a smart, caring team and shield yourself from unpredictable market changes.

Join me for Happy. Eager. Engaged!

Onboarding Training so Your Practice Can Run Like a Well-Oiled Machine!


Dina Lynch Eisenberg, JD, is the CEO of, an outsourcing training/consulting firm for successful lawyers and entrepreneurs based in Oakland, CA.

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