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
We are a three attorney personal injury plaintiff firm in Moline, Illinois. There are two partners and one associate in the firm. We handle a large volume of small PI files – currently we have 700+ open files handled by three attorneys and 5 assistants. We recently hired our fourth attorney – second associate – that came to us with 20 year's experience as an associate in several large firms (100 plus attorney firms). The attorney, who has been with us for about 8 weeks, has never handled personal injury cases and is having some problems getting organized. Do you have any suggestions?
I am a believer that time invested in orientation, training, and mentoring upfront can dramatically reduce a new associate's spin time, help them get online quicker, and improve overall profitability. Even though your associate has 20 year's experience in a large law firm – the work and the case management challenges are different. The associate may never have had overall management responsibility for cases or client relationships. The associate may have been assigned tasks to be completed with the partner having the case and client management responsibility. If the attorney did manage cases there is a major difference between managing say 25-50 large cases versus managing 150 small cases. There are new case management and client management skill sets and practices that will have to be developed and practiced in addition to the new area of law.
Invest time training and mentoring and share case and client management tools that can help your associate get off to a faster start.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC