I am the owner of an elder law firm in Jackson Mississippi. There are three associate attorneys working in the firm that have been with me under five years. All three were hired directly out of law school. While I try to mentor and train each of the associates as needed in “real time” I also conduct annual performance reviews with each associate and provide them with a written performance evaluation. I am getting frustrated as it seems that the feedback that I provide them does not stick and they continue to make the same errors and mistakes. I welcome any thoughts that you may have.
You may need more frequent discussions that are scheduled. I have some law firm client owners that have an ongoing scheduled meeting with each associate twice a month. You may also want to examine how you actually provide feedback to your associates. Often owners beat around the bush and don’t really provide meaningful feedback.
Giving meaningful feedback contributes an essential component to effective associate management. Whether you give feedback informally, midway through the work or at the end, or formally through a scheduled evaluation process, it gives you a powerful management tool, assisting individuals in professional development, teaching those you manage to work more effectively, and giving recognition and showing appreciation when deserved.
Effective feedback should be:
Praise you associates when deserved. Praise provides an effective motivator for most associates and should include:
Provide constructive criticism when deserved. It should include the items listed above and you should give it:
Use the following outline when giving constructive feedback:
Try to implement some of these ideas and go from there.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
I am the owner of a four attorney, myself and three associates, estate planning firm in Charleston, West Virginia. I spend the majority of my time managing the business and developing business and very little time servicing clients. This has been intentional as I enjoy the business aspects of the practice more than providing legal services. I conduct comprehensive written and face-to-face performance reviews with my associates annually and in real time as needed. These reviews are used as an associate performance management tool and a client service quality control tool. While the performance reviews include a performance rating category for client satisfaction I have no real way of determining client satisfaction. Do you have any thoughts on how to measure this?
Much can be learned by soliciting feedback from your clients. Structured telephone interviews and other forms of surveys conducted by a neutral third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction surveys can be the best marketing investment that you can make. In addition, client satisfaction surveys can be used to quantify and measure client satisfaction with individual attorneys in your firm.
Our law firm clients have found their clients to be impressed that the firm cares about their opinions. It is good business to listen to your clients. Understanding what bugs people about your services and those of your competition can be the most valuable input to strategy development you can get your hands on.
Many of our law firm clients that represent individual clients use a short two page survey document that is mailed or provided online at the conclusion of a matter. The survey poses a series of specific questions that addresses performance in several categories and rates performance on a 1-5 scale which allows a performance grade to be calculated for the firm and the attorney handing the matter. The survey also includes an area for comments. Paper surveys mailed back from clients are compiled in spreadsheets and a running score determined for the firm and individual attorneys.
If you use a paper survey mailed to clients I suggest:
A better approach, if your clients are e-mail and computer friendly is to use an online survey tool such as Survey Monkey and send clients an email with the contents listed above with a link to the online survey. Client feedback would automatically be compiled and would save you the cost and effort of mailing out surveys, postage, staff cost of compiling the surveys in a spreadsheet, and make it easier for clients.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC