Can one say:
a. They hired a new lawyer in the person of Harry O'Connell.
b. They hired a new lawyer in Harry O'Connell.

They hired Harry O'Connell as their new lawyer.
Original Post
I'm not really comfortable with no. 1, and no. 2 just doesn't work for me at all, Azz.

I just now checked the LDOCE Online and I find their definition very helpful. It also explains why I'm not comfy with no. 1:

"in the person of somebody formal, used before the name of someone who you have just mentioned in a more general way:

I was met by the police in the person of Sergeant Black."
IMO, 1 is correct, but indeed formal, and even worse, uses too many words:-)

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Character & Characters: The Spirit of Alaska Airlines‎ - Page 96
by Robert J. Serling - Transportation - 2008 - 492 pages

He hired a new vice president of maintenance in the person of Gus Robinson, who had spent 25 years in the Marine Corps as a pilot and maintenance expert.

http://books.google.com/books?...rson%20of%22&f=false
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The promised land: settling the West 1896-1914‎ - Page 34
by Pierre Berton - Social Science - 1984 - 388 pages

But he needed a strong voice, and the following year he hired a new editor in the person of John Wesley Dafoe, the big, dishevelled genius who would rise to
...
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