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Hillary Walsh on Leadership Lessons From the Legal Front: Navigating Business Growth and Team Dynamics

When most people think of starting a business, they imagine developing an in-demand product or service, marketing it, and securing reliable clients. Often, hiring team members isn’t given the same consideration. However, since founding New Frontier Immigration Law, Hillary Walsh has gleaned a good bit of wisdom about team building. 

That wisdom is hard-won, and she hopes other business leaders can learn from some of the challenges she’s faced on her leadership journey.

“I love talking about team building, not because I’m an expert at it, but because you have to get good at it as you grow your business,” Hillary says. “We have about 115 people on the team right now, and I’ve hired over 400. So there’s been a lot of trial and error.”

New Frontier Immigration Law currently has a detailed, standardized hiring process, but it wasn’t always that way. “We used to do what I jokingly call “pulse hiring,” which means if you had a pulse, you had a job,” she says. Hillary quickly learned that a law firm is only as strong as its team, and her firm started getting more selective in hiring.

Another trial-and-error experience came when Hillary hired her best friend — and things did not go as planned. 

“I employed a close friend for over a year, and then I had to let her go,” Hillary says. “I knew for along time that things weren’t working out, but I didn’t want to fire her because I was so afraid that we wouldn’t be friends anymore if I did so. I wish our friendship had survived, but it didn’t; this loss is something I’m still grieving.”

The larger a business grows, the harder it becomes for the owner to be in charge of every interview. Delegating tasks can be challenging, but Hillary discovered a way to standardize the process for the firm’s benefit. 

“We have a five-part interview process,” she says. “I did a whole training with my team on interviewing. We got really clear on those steps and kind of that framework. I stopped having to be the one who interviewed everybody, and we still get value-aligned people. It’s incredible.”

As stressful as interviews can be for a business, they are often more stressful for would-be employees. New Frontier Immigration Law emphasizes the importance of communication at each step of the process. In a cultural climate where many employers don’t keep interviewees informed, a little healthy communication can go a long way. 

“No one likes to be blindly led, so the more you can tell people where they are in the hiring process and what comes next, the more likely everybody will play along with all of the hoops that you make them go through in the interviewing process,” she says.

Building a team can be challenging, but Hillary encourages other business leaders to embrace those challenges as growth opportunities. “Once you get to know yourself a little bit more and you’re comfortable saying what you need to say and identifying who you want to work with, hiring becomes a lot more fun.”

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