I am a member of a three member executive committee with our twelve-attorney firm in San Antonio, Texas. One of our responsibilities is oversight of our career development program for associates and non-equity partners. We have been discussing our policy of admitting associates to non-equity partner and non-equity partners to equity partner. Presently, we do not have anything in writing regarding timeline for consideration or what qualifies one to move to the next level. Associates and non-equity partners are unhappy with the present process. They want more clarity concerning their career advancement within the firm. You advise would be helpful to us.
Several of my clients are developing career advancement programs that incorporate a competency-based approach that outlines specifically what is takes to be successful and advance from associate to non-equity partner and from non-equity partner to equity partner. Rather than leaving the formula for success in the minds of the equity partners, a competency model gives each attorney in the firm an understanding of how he or she will need to perform in order to be perceived as progressing, an ultimately, as successful. Competency models offer transparency and clarity. The model outlines specific behavioral observations as the primary source of performance information. Benefits are as follows:
Associates are presented with clear information on expectations for their level of experience and a road map of what is expected as they progress. Specific expectations are laid out for progression to non-equity partner as opposed to a specific timeline.
Non-equity partners are presented with clear information on expectations for their level of experience and a road map of what is expected as they progress. Specific expectations are laid out for progression to equity-partner as opposed to a specific timeline.
Equity partners and senior lawyers benefit from a consistent description of performance standards that allow them to access performance, assign work effectively, and offer more meaningful career guidance.
The firm has a consistent methodology for making and compensation decisions.
In order to work, a competency model should be integrated with attorney recruiting, performance evaluations, training, and compensation systems. Associates and partners must invest time in attorney development.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
I am new non-equity partner in a sixteen attorney firm in Phoenix, Arizona. My equity partners are telling me that I now have to do more than generate billable hours and perform quality work for clients. They now expect me to begin bringing in clients. I am not sure where to start.
I often advise attorneys that while what you know is important what you want to be known for is more important. Just having your name known is pretty useless unless it is known for something. An outstanding personal injury plaintiff lawyer – not just a good lawyer. In law firms it is the reputation for expertise that matters, not just the reputation. Therefore, a successful marketing program must project and demonstrate expertise. This can be accomplished in the following ways:
While biographies on the website are important, prospective clients and referral sources are looking for proof of expertise. Articles, authored books, presentations, and client testimonials provide such proof.
One of the best and reliable ways of providing such proof is the article. In a byline article, you don’t have to say that your are an expert – the fact that you wrote the article, discussing a particular legal topic, says it for you. Its your expertise on display whether the article be in a print publication or posted on your website, blog, or other location.
An article is one tool that you can use where you have control – you can say what you want to say and say it in your way. In most cases, if an article is acceptable to a publication, an editor won’t change the thrust of it.
For most legal and business trade journal publications that accept articles you do not have to be a well known writer to write an article that will be accepted by these publications. You simply have to know what you are talking about. Editors will help with the formatting, style, and syntax.
If you retain the copyright to your article you can re-purpose your article and use it on the firm’s website, reprints, firm brochures, and as a future chapter in your first book.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC