post # 315 — February 22, 2007 — a Managing post
Hereâ€™s a question about performance appraisals:
We are in the midst of generating year- end reviews for our associate (ie non-partner) lawyers. We have moved away from a standardized report and have been coaching all year. The report we will give them will merely be a re-cap of all the coaching sessions for the year. We will of course be addressing monetary rewards and we are in a heated debate about one issue. Should we address the billing amounts of each lawyer at this review? Should one be congratulated over the others for doing more individual billable hours? Isnâ€™t there a risk that we will set up an unhealthy competition and seem to encourage less teamwork?
I have a few responses:
- If you have been coaching all year, why do you need a year-end review?
- If there is a need for something year-end, shouldnâ€™t it be less of a â€œreviewâ€ and focus almost entirely on looking ahead as to what each person can and should be doing to enhance their career? Whatâ€™s the point of looking back?
- In a law firm, arenâ€™t the number of billable hours determined by what the partners assign to the juniors? If so, what do high personal billable hours reflect? Popularity among the partners? A more dependable person? Someone too dumb to hide out when they are already busy? Iâ€™d discuss the personal billable hours and try to understand them, but I would stay away from using them as a performance metric.
Ed Kless said:
A few things here:
I agree with David about points 1 & 2. The focus should be looking forward. In addition, I believe that any performance review should be separated in time and space from the salary adjust me. If the purpose of the review/preview is to coach performance, you need to take the money out of it. The coaching opportunity will be overshadowed by the adjustment in salary.
At my firm, we did the annual assessement (coaching sessions throughout the year as well) in June and adjusted salaries in December. This way people did not associate the “review/preview” with money. In addition, they could modify their behavior.
On billable hours, I think you need to not only not talk about them, but eliminate them! I agree with David, that they are a poor indicator of performance. Think about it. Someone who can do the same quality work in three hours when it takes some else six is penalized – FOR BEING SMART.
My Verasage colleague, Chris Marston, has written extenisvely about this topic. See Time-Based Accounting is Behavior Modifying to the Deteriment of Profits.
Chris, I know you are a reader of this blog so, please chime in!
posted on February 22, 2007