Successful rainmaking lawyers need associates. In hiring they look for intelligence, technical ability, team spirit and a good attitude. Sometimes they hire at or above their level, although more often hires have less experience than their bosses. Some rainmakers need associates with identical skill sets, while others require overlapping or different areas of expertise. It depends upon the work at hand.
What is crucial to any rainmaker’s hire is that the associate work hard, be willing to stretch (and therefore sometimes make mistakes), listen carefully and probe with questions anything that is not understood. The best rainmakers want someone who can think outside of the box when necessary and have good instincts about getting along with and growing clients. How do rainmakers go about hiring associates to do quality, cost efficient work, make clients happy and make the rainmaker happy? There are some best practices guidelines for such hires.
It is crucial to understand what sort of expertise is required and hire someone who can currently or be trained to do the substantive work. As important, one should hire a person who is by character suited to the style of work that needs to be done. Hire an associate who easily tolerates boredom when the work is generally repetitive, and a clever, big-picture thinker for frequent creative assignments.
The best lawyers are non-obsessively compulsive. When getting references (and do get references) make sure the person being made an offer wants to do things perfectly, but settles for close to perfect. To operate a thriving legal practice, rainmakers need to know those working for them will get the job done correctly, thoroughly and on time.
It is never a good idea to hire someone because of affection or common interests, but if you get that as well, your life will be better.
Common professional and world values matter less in associate to partner relations than in partner to partner or partner to client relations. So long as the overlap is sufficient to get good work done, you can decide who will be your partner over time.