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Preparing for Your Year-End Performance Review

Are you ready for your performance review?

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.

Before the review

It’s important to know how you will be evaluated. Non-billing criteria can include relationships with attorneys and staff, ability to meet deadlines, willingness to take on work, written and oral skills, pro bono work, and administrative functions just to name a few.  Find out which of these matters the most to your firm prior to your performance review. Look back at your calendar, time entries, client lists, expense reports or any other records to refresh your memory about work completed. If you have a report from your last evaluation, be sure to review the information. In addition to your billable hours, you should keep accurate records of the following:
  • New clients, you brought to the firm as well as new matters for existing clients.
  • Other matters you handled such as recruiting, administrative work, articles or speeches, pro bono, etc.
  • The positive feedback you received. Write down comments made about your work, whether it’s from partners, colleagues, clients, or support staff. Record exact quotes and the date, and save hard copies of complimentary emails and letters.
  • Know your worth. Keep an eye on the market for your position, practice area or industry. A well connected legal recruiter can tell you what the going rate is for your position and the state of the legal market in your area.

Keep all of this support material in a binder and take it to your evaluation meeting.

During the review

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.

After the review

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.

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