HR agony aunt: On mentors, temperamental lawyers and recruiting well

Polly Jeanneret By Polly Jeanneret
from a leading London-based firm, HR expert and employment lawyer

This blog post was also featured as a Q&A in the October 2015 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.

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Polly Jeanneret, LPM mag’s HR guru on mentors, temperamental lawyers and recruiting well

Q: We are interested in the Law Society’s new mentoring scheme – but how do we encourage our lawyers to sign up as mentors?

A: Mentoring should come naturally to lawyers because that is how the profession has operated for generations – the partner and the trainee are, in essence, mentor and mentee. Launched in August, the Law Society’s scheme is trying to match-make young lawyers from under-represented social groups to successful practitioners, a worthy cause indeed. But time-poor solicitors are put off by the commitment, perhaps feeling they don’t have much to offer and fearing that mentees may be closet jobseekers. Your role is to tell your lawyers that these assumptions don’t stack up. You could also play to their egos, that mentees need someone as witty and brilliant as them.

Q: One of our solicitors is passionate and committed but also temperamental. We value his skills but how do we keep him steady?

A: A famous study of what makes an effective lawyer by Shultz and Zedeck includes “passion and engagement” on its list. It also cites those quieter traits such as “diligence” and “listening”. But what are the chances of finding that balance in one person? Perhaps we can borrow a saying from rugby: “Each prop has a place and there’s a place for each prop”. You guessed it – I made that up. But you can see the point I’m making. You can’t change the way he is so find him a role which suits the way he is.

Q: When we recruit lawyers, we form a panel of three. We are finding that views are very diverse and consensus is difficult. Is it just us?

A: Selecting a candidate should be an objective process – if you are clear about who you are looking for then everyone should spot him or her when that person walks through the door. But even the most rigorous systems are vulnerable to personal opinions and particular circumstances. A study recently found that whether or not an interviewer has had a hot drink just before an interview impacted on their decision-making (who knew?). Disagreement means that no single person’s personal views are dominant – and that is actually a good thing. 

Polly Jeanneret is an expert in HR and an employment lawyer at Halebury to boot – she’s seen and heard it all. Send her your HR questions: askpolly@lsn.co.uk

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