Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Coaching

Aug 20, 2013


Law Firm Associate Performance Evaluations

Question:

I am the managing partner of an eight attorney firm in Central Illinois. We have five partners and three associates. Over the years we have experienced excessive associate turnover and have had problems retaining associates. While we believe that we provide adequate feedback to our associates regarding our expectations and their performance in real time and in their annual reviews several of my partners believe that we can do better. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Response:

One of the most frequent complains I hear during interviews with associates in law firms of all sizes is lack of specific detailed feedback, unclear or non-existent expectations concerning their performance and future career progression, and vague informal performance reviews.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Institute a system where associates, especially when they are new, have a chance to work with all of the partners in the firm.
  2. As managing partner solicit feedback from your partners and meet monthly with each associate and discuss their performance during their first two years of employment with the firm.
  3. Annually conduct formal performance reviews with each associate. Before the review obtain specific feedback from each of the partners and have each partner complete a written review of each associate using the associate performance rating form. Ask each associate to conduct a self-evaluation using the firm's associate performance rating form and then conduct a detailed review with each associate. The review should be detailed and specific and should be developmental with specific goals and timelines established. Document the review in the associate performance rating form.
  4. Consider developing an associate career progression program (partnership track) and committing it to writing. The program should outline the timeline for first consideration for partnership, competencies and performance factors, what partnership means in your firm, how an associate becomes a partner, buy-in or capital contribution requirements, voting, etc.
  5. Be honest and open with your associates – don't try to be Santa Claus – tell them the truth, have the difficult discussions, and make the tough calls. Be accessible.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

 

 

Feb 14, 2012


Law Firm Coaching: When Does A Lawyer Need A Coach

Question:

Our firm of 16 attorneys is trying to make major strides this year in helping our firm design and implement personal business and client development plans. Should we consider hiring coaches? When should a firm consider coaching for attorneys?

Response:

The day-to-day stress of practicing law and serving clients leaves little time for focusing and investing in the future of the firm. When attorneys exhibit the following it may be time for a coach:

Training and skill development is not easy. Studies reveal that 90 percent of the people who attend seminars and training sessions see no improvement because they don't take the time to implement what they learn. Practice create habits and habits determine your future. Up to 90 percent of our normal behavior is based on habits. The key to skill learning is to get the new skill to become a habit. Once the new habit is well developed it becomes your new normal behavior. This requires practice. Unfortunately, attorneys do not have time to practice and experiment.

The coach's role is that of steward, facilitative leader and teacher. Law firms retain coaches to work with attorneys and staff, mostly on a personal level, to address problems involving lack of commitment, inertia, implementation, self-accountability and follow-up. Firms are using coaching in the following areas:

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Dec 20, 2011


Conducting Meaningful Heart to Heart Discussions With Law Firm Attorneys and Staff.

Question: 

I am the sole owner of a 12 attorney firm in downtown Chicago. With staff we have a total of 23 people in the firm. Managing people is my toughest challenge. I am having problems with people not following firm policy and doing what they should not be doing. It is driving me crazy. What should I do? I am interested in your thoughts?

Response:

Tell them to stop. Seriously. As owner of your firm you can't beat around the bush and be sheepish concerning your expectations concerning desired performance and behavior in the office. Confront the performance or behavioral problem immediately. Manage such problems in real time. Don't wait for the annual performance review and don't treat serious problem as a "self-improvement" effort. Tell them how you feel about the performance or behavioral issue, the consequences for failure to resolve the issue, your timeline for resolving the issue, and the follow-up schedule that you will be using to follow-up and monitor the issue. If they must resolve the performance or behavioral issue in order to keep their job tell them so. They may need this level of confrontation they need in order to give them the strength to be able to deal with their issues.

Being a wimp does not help you or them. Tell them like it is and conduct a heart-to-heart discussion. You will be glad you did.

P.S. It gets easier with practice!

Click here for our blog on HR ideas

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Dec 01, 2006


Lawyer Coaching

Recently the following question was submitted to our office:

When should a firm consider coaching for attorneys?

The day-to-day stress of practicing law and serving clients leaves little time for focusing and investing in the future of the firm. When attorneys exhibit the following it may be time for a coach:

§         Stuck and unable to move forward on new initiatives
§         Indecision paralysis.
§         Lack of commitment, inertia, self-accountability or follow-up
§         Poor implementation skills
§         Lack of management, leadership, interpersonal, or other needed skills.

Training and skill development is not easy. Studies reveal that 90 percent of the people who attend seminars and training sessions see no improvement because they don't take the time to implement what they learn. Practices create habits and habits determine your future. Up to 90 percent of our normal behavior is based on habits. The key to skill learning is to get the new skill to become a habit. Once the new habit is well developed it becomes your new normal behavior. This requires practice. Unfortunately, attorneys do not have time to practice and experiment.

The coach's role is that of steward, facilitative leader and teacher. Law firms retain coaches to work with attorneys and staff, mostly on a personal level, to address problems involving lack of commitment, inertia, implementation, self-accountability and follow-up. Firms are using coaching in the following areas:

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Sep 02, 2003


When Should a Firm Consider Coaching for Their Attorneys

Question:

When should a firm consider coaching for their attorneys?

Response:

The day to day stress of practicing law and serving clients leaves little time for focusing and investing in the future of the firm. When attorneys exhibit the following it may be time for a coach:    

Training and skill development is not easy. Studies reveal that 90 percent of the people who attend seminars and training sessions see no improvement because they don't take the time to implement what they learn. Practices create habits and habits determine your future. Up to 90 percent of our normal behavior is based on habits. The key to skill learning is to get the new skill to become a habit. Once the new habit is well developed it becomes your new normal behavior. This requires practice. Unfortunately, attorneys do not have time to practice and experiment. 

The coach's role is that of steward, facilitative leader and teacher. Law firms retain coaches to work with attorneys and staff, mostly on a personal level, to address problems involving lack of commitment, inertia, implementation, self-accountability and follow-up. Firms using coaching in many areas:     

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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