I want to share this wonderful piece that was written, by Phil Houston, for law firms looking at hiring new lawyers---I think readers will find it is of great applicability to other areas where professionals are being hired and also of use to the public looking to hire the very best lawyer for their case!
T’is the season for hiring new talent (we hope). As law firms scramble to compete for the best talent slated to graduate in May/June 2011, they are often reminded of how difficult it is to identify and hire the best candidates. Many firms also know and understand that the most difficult position to screen for is litigators.
Identifying that individual who will become the successful litigator and a future crown jewel of the firm is not easy. Inherently, predicting success or finding that crown jewel is very difficult. Quite simply those firms that do it the best are likely to be the most successful. “Identifying “the best” is often a product of the criteria one uses to define “the best.” While there is nothing wrong with such criteria as Ivy League law schools; class ranking; GPA; family connections; legacy, etc., it is important to note that there are other criteria of equal, if not more important value and that might more accurately predict how a graduating law student might actually perform in the courtroom. Perhaps three of the most important factors are 1) Intellect; 2) Ideational Fluency; and 3) Intellectual Curiosity. Let’s examine why each of these is critical to the profession and how we can utilize them to identify the strongest candidates.
1) Intellect – Many firms believe they are screening for intellect by factoring in such things as class ranking and GPA, as well as the general impressions regarding intellect that have been gleaned through the firm’s interview and screening process. Unfortunately, those factors can be very misleading. For example, class ranking and/or GPA may be more a measure of work ethic than how smart the individual is and while many of us think we are a good judge a candidate’s intellect, such evaluations are far too subjective on which to risk a firm’s future success. Intellect can and should be empirically screened for through the use of psychometric testing.
2) Ideational Fluency – Intuitively, firms understand that “smarts” alone are insufficient to predict success in the courtroom. It is the application of one’s intellect in a given situation that affords us more reliable insight into a candidate’s future success or failure, particularly in the dynamic world of litigation. So, what is the application of smarts? A psychologist once defined this concept in layman’s terms for me as simply “mental quickness” as opposed to “mental depth.” How fast can an individual connect the dots? In the firm’s screening process it is important to measure and understand how rapidly an individual absorbs, processes, and successfully acts on information. Ideational Fluency can and should be measured in the screening/hiring process, either through psychometric testing or through the use of carefully crafted interview questions designed to specifically measure this criterion.
3) Intellectual Curiosity – At first glance this factor may seem a bit unusual or surprising in terms of criteria necessary to become a successful litigator. It is probably no secret that in the world of litigation, those who are most successful are also those who enjoy the battle. In order to win in the courtroom one must outwit the opposition. In simple terms, those who have the inherent desire to find the right answer or solution to a questions or problem are the same individuals who are likely to enjoy the challenges that the world of litigation affords them. Admittedly, this criterion is perhaps the most difficult to identify or measure, however, like Ideational Fluency, both psychometric testing along with a well crafted interview approach can flesh this out.
While the three factors identified above are certainly not the only criteria that should be considered in the hiring process, they are almost always either improperly measured and/or simply not considered. Understanding the value of these criteria and how to measure them will almost certainly lead to better hiring decisions.