Power in a law firm isn't found just in the wood-paneled, reporter-lined corner office, but right behind the front desk. A law firm's receptionists isn't just the first face visitors see when they arrive, he or she is also the cornerstone of a successful office.
Your receptionist matters, so be sure you pick the right person for the job. If you're currently hunting for a new receptionist, put candidates with these characteristics at the top of your list:
A receptionist is often the first point of contact someone coming in to a firm has, whether they are potential clients, opposing counsel, or little lost children. Excellent verbal communication skills are essential to ensuring that everyone gets a good impression of the firm. Since law firms can also be a high stress business place, for both clients and employees, look for a receptionist who can handle difficult work situations gracefully and avoids office politics.
Law firm receptionists' roles are as varied as law firms themselves. In some, a receptionist's responsibilities may be limited to answering phones, greeting visitors, arranging schedules and the like. In orders, a receptionist might have to be an amalgam of office manager, front desk person and paralegal.
Whatever the case, the position will task your receptionist with multiple responsibilities. His or her organizational skills will be essential to managing them effectively. Look for a receptionist who can prioritize conflicting needs and who handles matters expeditiously and proactively. Ask candidates to explain how they've balanced multiple simultaneous needs or to describe an organizational system they created at their last job.
Good receptionists will know their way around the latest legal and office technology. Their expertise shouldn't be limited to traditional PC's either; as work becomes more and more mobile, a good law firm secretary will need to be skilled with devices, such as smart phones and tablets.
Ask applicants what tech they have integrated into their jobs. Knowing how to use phones, copiers and printers is standard; give extra points for candidates who can wow you in Excel, update your firm website or, best of all, make sure your communications are secure.
If you can find a candidate who embodies these qualities, consider yourself lucky.