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Mitchell Kaplan: Managing Shareholder, Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, PC, Philadelphia, PA

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As the managing shareholder of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, PC, in Philadelphia, Mitchell Kaplan has plenty of experience when it comes to hiring new associates, and he had some good advice to share with hiring managers on finding the perfect fits for their firms.

Kaplan, who earned both his undergraduate and J.D. degrees from Temple University, has had a career path that's pretty easy to trace. Upon graduation from law school, he joined his current firm, and he has been there for 25 years. Having worked his way up from being the lowest-ranking associate to managing shareholder, Kaplan said his favorite parts of his job as a personal injury, insurance defense, and insurance subrogation attorney are the people he works with.

"[My favorite part] is my interaction with people-both clients, staff, and others-who have involvement with our law office," he said.

When asked if there are general trends in what attorneys are looking for at the moment with regard to hiring, Kaplan said it varies depending on whether a firm is looking to make a lateral or entry-level hire.

"I think with a lateral hire law firms are very interested in the ability of the attorney to generate work," he said. "Whether that is new work from new clients or enhancing the work that existing clients may have with a particular law firm, they're looking to increase the flow of business into a law office."

"With the entry-level associates, those firms that hire entry-level associates are obviously looking for somebody who not only is intelligent and has good grades and has an excellent writing ability, but firms are also looking at how they interact with people and how they feel their future will be as an attorney," he said.

There are specific things Kaplan looks for when interviewing potential candidates.

"When I interview a candidate, it's very important that the candidate is professional, has a good appearance and speaks well, and that the candidate will make a good impression to those in the community about the firm," he said. "So someone who has good people skills is very important, and to also be able to speak intelligently [is important]. We always get a writing sample so that we know if the person can write well."

He also stressed the importance of doing background checks, saying that there's really only so much you can learn about a person from a round of interviews.

"My advice would be to do everything you can to find out about the background of a person," he said. "I find that simply an interview is not as reliable as it should be. So anything you can do with regard to finding out about the individual and his prior positions is very, very important."

In the end, Kaplan said, you usually have to go with your gut when it comes to deciding whether or not a candidate is right for your firm.

"It's unfortunately the best tool that you have because so much of the actual information that you're told-and even when you try to dig into someone's background-a lot of that information tends to be unreliable," he said.
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