How do I get the right fit when I hire a paralegal?

A very legitimate question when you consider what’s at stake.  

Hiring makes you feel vulnerable so there’s no wonder some lawyers are scared to take the leap from lawyer to leader.

Essentially, it’s like  ‘opening up the kimono’ of your law firm and to allow another person to have a peek at your process, personnel, client base, not to mention your physical space.  That’s a lot of critical information. Of course, you want to make the best selection.  

Set the foundation to hire your Paralegal

Here are some action steps you can take now to prepare to find your perfect paralegal. 

Explore who you work best with.

I love this thinking prompt.  It brings back the warm & fuzzies. Recall your best group experience (professional or social).  You really loved being part of this group. What made the group special? What were the common characteristics of the members? How did you feel as a member?

Know your mission.  

It can be easy, what with all the stress, to forget why started your law firm. You knew you could do things differently and were brave enough to try. What wrongs were you trying to right in the world?  Your paralegal is joining you for more than a paycheck. That person is choosing to join your mission so be sure you know what that is.

Own what you want.

Every law practice is different. While you do have to follow the regulations and guidelines, you don’t need anyone’s permission to shape your staff and culture in a way that works for you. 

It’s your firm so your core values and needs take precedence. Somehow, a lot of lawyers forget that part.

Stop molding yourself to fit the needs of others, and hire people who already fit for who you are.

Dina Eisenberg

By the way, when I say fit, I don’t mean clone. You’re looking for someone who shares your values and who will lead to new growth. Otherwise, why bother. Part of the benefit of hiring a paralegal is to gain a new perspective. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says if we both think the same thing one of us is unnecessary.

Think of it as your yardstick so you know which candidates measure up.

How to Screen Paralegal Candidates

Let’s face it. Most lawyers have no real clue about how to select a great candidate to hire. How can I tell? I read the non-descript job descriptions that essentially say, “Anybody who doesn’t steal with a pulse, we want you!’

I get it. By the time you were ready to hire a paralegal, you were so overworked was beyond ridiculous. Panic hiring happened. That’s ok. Everybody gets one.

Create an Employee Avatar

The easier way is to think ahead (Hello, we’re lawyers- that’s what we do!) Spend the time say what you want and need to do an excellent job for your clients. Even if it won’t sound popular.

Answer the earlier questions. Then take the next step. Think about work or group situations where there were people you could not get along with to save your life. What did they do to piss you off? Those are the red flags to look out for.

Don’t wimp out on the red flags. If a potential client says one of my red flags no matter how much I like the person or think I could help, I can’t take them on as a client. It’s not fair to the other clients who would get less attention due to that person. That’s the beauty of having a rule. It works on you, too.

To recap

The best way to get a paralegal who fits you is to know you! Self-awareness is the most important emotional intelligence tool. So many problems are solved before they start when you know yourself and are honest about your needs.

Invest the time to reflect upon who you would be excited to have as part of your workplace. Be selfish.

If you want to talk through creating an employee avatar, you have two options.

You can join me on Saturday, November 2nd for the Intensive, the last one of the year! Learn more here.

Or, book a Progress Call with me.


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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