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Look Before You Hire: The Costs of Bad Hires for Law Firms

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 30, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Job seekers often complain about the job search process. The common complaint is that it's drawn out, overly complex and layered, or unnecessary. Although the need to vent is understandable, employees should also appreciate what employers are trying to do: save themselves some headache.

Today, the costs of hiring badly can get way up there. Think more than dollars and cents. Employers should heed the warning well and look before they hire.

Opportunity Costs and Productivity

If a law firm happens to hire someone who is, quite frankly, too incompetent to hold the position, productivity will obviously fall. If one thinks of work in terms of units, a bad hire will either lead to a decrease in the numbers or a reduction in quality. And this means the longer you keep the hire, the more business you would have lost due to opportunity costs.


Since we're lawyers here, we should talk about the personal experience. Lawyers sell a service, a brand, and an experience. If you hire someone who just can't do the work, you have a real problem on your hands because the reputation of the firm will get dragged down. Today, law firms tremble at the feet of Yelp! People frequently peruse review sites to check out a potential attorney's past work or client satisfaction. If the attorney consistently misses dates or deadlines, or produces shoddy work, business will start moving to another firm.

Chopping off the Cancer to Save the Limb

And then there's the problem of waiting just too long. It happens in everything: people wait too long to face the reality of a problem and then the problem really gets its roots down into the earth. You can't fire this employee because they now have established a presence at the firm.

What's worse, local, state or federal laws present an avalanche of potential lawsuits just looming over your head.  Soon, that bright-eyed, promising hire is now appearing in your nightmares, haunting your sleepless nights.

Costs of a Bad Hire?

We know you wanted a hard and fast number, but it be would wrong for us to provide such specificity. Robert Half Legal asked law firms their reactions to the bad hire question and the numbers looked grim. Almost 40 percent of hiring managers said that bad hires hit the firm's productivity. To fix the problem of hires, it takes anywhere between 5 to 7.5 weeks to find a new replacement. That's a lot of downtime!

But we can assure you that taking the time to really vet potential candidates for the job is not a waste of time. In hiring candidates, slow and steady really does win the race.

FindLaw has an affiliate relationship with Indeed, earning a small amount of money each time someone uses Indeed's services via FindLaw. FindLaw receives no compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

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