It’s that time of year when associates meet with senior attorneys, partners or management committees to discuss their performance over the past twelve months. The results of this review can impact salary raises, bonuses, mobility in the firm and prospects. Depending on the size and practice of the firm, annual reviews may be conducted by attorneys in your department, by managing partner(s) or by committee. Attorneys you’ve worked with throughout the year will fill out detailed evaluations of your performance, and the reviewing attorneys or partners will go through them with you. Some firms ask attorneys to submit a self-evaluation before their performance review. A proactive approach before, during and after your performance review can keep your career moving in the right direction.
Keep all of this support material in a binder and take it to your evaluation meeting.
The immediate goal is to survive the review with poise and dignity! When you hear criticism, don’t whine, complain, challenge, or get defensive. Part of the process is to see how you handle negative comments and it may be one of the toughest challenges you face. Stay calm, respectful and responsive no matter what is said. Refer to your support materials when necessary and make it clear that you want to improve as an attorney. Positive comments will tell you what has made an impression with attorneys in your firm. Be humble about praise and build on it.
If you receive a written report, review it carefully to make sure the information matches your recollection of the meeting. If there are discrepancies, send a respectful email requesting clarification. If the performance review was oral, immediately write a memo summarizing what was said, and your understanding of how you need to improve. As difficult as it may be, seek out people who criticized you in their evaluations, and thank them. If you believe you were given an unfairly negative evaluation of your work or your prospects, it may be time to consider looking outside your current firm. Conversely, if you received glowing reviews but no raise in pay or position, you may want to find out if you are fairly compensated. Talking to an experienced legal recruiter may help you find out if there are better options available to you.
Collier Legal Search is a full-service legal staffing company that specializes in placing well-credentialed partners, associates and legal professionals at every level in law firms and corporations. Contact us at 832-239-5253 to give us the opportunity to work with you.