Hiring the right people is the first and most important goal in recruitment.  And these days firms do not have the luxury of over-hiring and waiting a few years for the "keepers" to rise to the top. 

A speech at the International Bar Association conference in Madrid last month reiterated the importance of an often-neglected part of recruiting:  determining the personality and other personal attributes, such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, resilience and rainmaking ability, of potential hires to make sure they "fit" a firm as well as a firm’s clients.  In anticipation of that presentation, Janet Moore said: "I have been thinking how (most) law firms do not fully assess lawyers before hiring them… What if, as part of the hiring decision, law firms objectively and thoroughly assessed their potential hires?" 

Or, we might add, if firms worry about scaring off recruits with such a sophisticated approach, what if firms used assessments as part of the orientation and integration process to better place new attorneys in practice groups and firm roles?  Or used assessments to help their lawyers build individual career development plans and to inform professional development programs?  Or used them to steer leadership development programs and succession plans?

There is a long list of assessments that have been successfully used for decades by corporations and consultants to the corporate world.  Some shed light on business development propensities, others highlight personality attributes that help position a person in his or her most productive role and others predict and shape delivery and management style.

At a time when law firms are turning more aggressively to business schools for management programs to help their lawyers become better businessmen, it should be pointed out that business schools fairly uniformly require that their graduates complete some sort of personal assessment and take a class on how those attributes influence their team participation and management style–and can help them be more effective.

But an important step is doing the upfront work of identifying what attributes a firm is looking for in hires and how the firm can support the development of those attributes.  “We want bright people, but we’re also looking for other qualities, like a sense of responsibility and a willingness to go the extra mile for clients,” as Cynthia Pladziewicz, Chief Development Officer at Dallas-based Thompson & Knight says.  “We need to understand who succeeds here…" and  “make sure we integrate our recruiting with our development process.”