“In the world of talent recruiting and human resources, there is a creature known as the purple squirrel, which is the code name for the perfect employee”. In the legal profession, the purple squirrel has the right academic pedigree, work experience, solid book of business, winning track record, works 16 hours a day, 365 days a year, and will accept whatever pay her employer is willing to offer. They are almost as hard to find as the Loch Ness Monster. In an Above the Law article, Shannon Achimalbe contends that going with the next best candidate, someone who is exceptional but imperfect, is truly the better option for employers.
Why would going with a less than ideal candidate be best? It seems counter-intuitive. For one, it takes a significantly longer time to find, and in the meantime, billable hours are lost and other staff has to unwillingly pick up the slack. Furthermore, if attained, the purple squirrel will likely expect to be treated accordingly, meaning expecting to be catered on his every whim, creating tensions with management and colleagues.
Looking for someone exceptional who shows promise and drive that could improve with the right training is prudent. Holding out only for the purple squirrel may not only waste valuable firm time, but has the potential to be a bad investment as well. Law firms should take this into consideration and ensure they are utilizing the most efficient hiring processes possible.