This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho. He has a unique exercise on making hiring decisions.

Let’s do a thought experiment. I want you to imagine a situation.

Imagine that you own a law firm. You need some junior lawyers. These lawyers are the lifeblood of your law firm. They will have to be profitable for the firm. You are hiring new, young, fresh lawyers into your team so that you can further grow your practice, reduce your cost by leveraging senior and expensive lawyers with some junior and relatively less expensive lawyers.

This is a critical exercise. If you get this wrong, your practice will not grow.

It is an open secret that clients pay for the top-notch, experienced lawyers but trained juniors do a lot of heavy lifting in the background so that these senior lawyers can bill more. One partner, therefore, works with 6-10 junior lawyers at different levels. In some firms, the number could be higher.

The productivity of these junior lawyers is critical for the practice area to work. If these juniors are highly productive, the firm can do really well. The partner will be able to deliver results to clients within time, build loyalty with the more profitable clients, will get freed up for doing more business development activities and rake in more money for the firm.

What happens in these juniors are not too good?

The partners will have to spend too much time cleaning up messes, mending relationships with angry clients who have been affected by bad quality work, double check everything that goes through to clients from his team, spend too much time training, managing or shouting at these juniors and work more hours to keep the ship afloat. Yes, keeping it afloat itself will become a big task without good juniors, forget moving forward.

Hence, good law firms pay a lot of money to good juniors. Senior associates, who usually have 4 to 8 years of experience, usually draw a salary plus bonus between 25 lakhs and 40 lakhs. The wide discrepancy in number is due to vast differences in productivity, track record and bargaining power of these associates.

These numbers are true not only for the 7-8 big law firms but for another 20 law firms that constitute tier 2 of the Indian law firm industry.

With all these perspectives, can you tell me who will you hire in the following situations?

Candidate number one: Went to National Law School, Bangalore. Has a track record of winning moots. Has written 6-7 academic papers and journal articles on corporate-commercial legal issues. Perfect English. Seems like capable of hard work, and will get well with the team because he seems to know how to get along with people. This will be his first job. Do not know much practical skills yet, will have to be trained in how to do the job if selected. High expectations about salary and growth opportunities.

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Candidate number two: graduate of a law school you have not heard of before. Was topper in class. Remembers all the sections of CrPC and Transfer of Property Act. Makes many mistakes while writing and speaking English. Not so sophisticated in social circumstances. Went to some small regional moots. Published one journal article in life. This will be her first job. Pro is that can be hired very cheap, super motivated but will need a lot of training, not only on how to do practical work but also on other things like English. Very low expectations of salary.

Candidate number three: graduate of a law school you have not heard of before. Did not mention marks in the CV which means it wasn’t great. Has two years of work experience. Can do due diligence, draft contracts, write professionally acceptable emails. Very down to earth, but gets communication right. There is nothing else to speak of except that he seems to be someone who already knows what is the work and how to do it thanks to previous experience. Do not expect the world from the job as expectations are tampered by previous experience in the job market. Diligent, hard working, knows his place in the team and will work accordingly.

You can hire only one of these 3 people. Who will you hire? And why? This is the first question for you.

Then I want you to answer a second, but more difficult question.

Imagine that you reject all these 3 people. You want someone better than all these 3. What qualities, skills and traits will that person have? What would you try to judge in the interview? What do you want to see in their CV?

Finally the third question. If a candidate can work on one aspect of themselves, and they just have 3 months to do so, what should they work on? What do you think will absolutely most important while hiring a lawyer for your firm, that one can acquire or learn in a few months?

Remember that your law firm is a corporate law firm which pays a good salary and a lot of people want to work with you. You get hundreds of CVs every month.

Who do you want to hire given that your biggest priority is the profitability of your firm?

Write your answers and reply in the comment section. I want to hear your thoughts.

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