Around the Blawgosphere: Crowdsourcing Performance Evaluations? Pros and Cons of 'Client Contact'
Perfecting Performance Reviews
At The Delaware Employment Law Blog, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor associate Molly DiBianca noted an HBR Blog Network post by Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley suggesting that employees’ annual performance reviews be “crowdsourced” by staff, not just managers. “In other words, solicit regular feedback from everyone who works with employee being reviewed,” DiBianca wrote.
She’s not entirely opposed to Mosley’s idea. But she thinks that commenters in this scenario should be require to meet at least once a year to discuss the comments they’ve given or intend to give. “At least in the legal profession, my colleagues and I have no problem battling it out to defend our positions,” DiBianca wrote. “If reasonable minds and voices can prevail, such a discussion may give commenters a more accurate perspective with which to frame their comments prior to their submission.”
Overall, DiBianca thinks that any effort to improve a defunct system is a step in the right direction. “Even if it doesn’t remove all of the flaws, forward is always better, so I’d encourage employers to try it and see whether it works for their particular workforce.”
Usually, law firm associates crave a position in which they will have contact with clients, thinking that “they will establish a relationship with the client separate and apart from the relationship that the client has with the relationship partner.” Tom Wallerstein, co-founder of Colt / Wallerstein in Redwood Shores, Calif., wrote in his “From Biglaw to Boutique” column at Above the Law. “There is some truth to this. … If you prove to be a consistent source of good advice, a client may, over time, take to calling you in the first place instead of calling the partner. This is especially true if you frequently CHECK YOUR EMAIL and prove to be more accessible than the partner.”
But the client knowing who you, the associate, are and choosing to contact you can also mean you can find yourself tied up in repetitive and unproductive conversations explaining updates on your work on the case; listening to complaints about your firm’s bills; and, “as with all client interactions, answering a question or trying to clarify is fraught with the danger of screwing it up.”
Wallerstein notes that an associate can score points with an interviewer promising client contact that “you don’t have such a naïve view as to think that he is promising a bed of roses. You can commiserate with all the challenges inherent in speaking to clients, while at the same time embracing the bigger picture and showing that you understand why, despite the downsides, client contact is indeed worth seeking out.”
Farewell, My Associate
Lee Rosen of the Rosen Law Firm in North Carolina wrote at Divorce Discourse that he hears story after story about law firms investing great amounts of time and money into an associate, only to see him or her leave the firm—and take clients along. “They feel like they invested all of their hope, dreams, and energy in these young lawyers, only to get stabbed in the back. These lawyers come to me and ask how they can find a good associate who won’t screw them by running off. Can it be done? Can you hire an associate and count on his or her loyalty and longevity so you can recoup your investment?”
Rosen says no: More often than not, an associate you hire will leave you eventually. What a lawyer can do is use associates while anticipating their departure. Figure out a way to train them with audio, video and online means that can be used again to train another associate. Set up a compensation system that has a payoff once a matter is concluded so you have cash to pay yourself and/or a replacement if an associate quits in the middle of a case. Keep interviewing in case you need to replace your associate on short notice, and “limit the associates’ role to assignments that allow immediate profitability. Think through what they can do that will affect the bottom line right now rather than a year or two from now.”
Gaga, Ooh, Law, Law
Lawyers.com editor-in-chief Larry Bodine writes at Law Marketing Solutions that lawyers who want to market their practices could learn a thing or two from pop star Lady Gaga, who, according to Forbes, grossed $52 million in the 12 months preceding this May 1, and a whopping $90 million in the 12 months before that. Some parallels he sees:
• She improved on a proven success. “When I first saw Lady Gaga, I thought I had seen this act before—by Madonna in the 1990s,” Bodine wrote. “And it’s true, Gaga took something that worked well for someone else in her field and gave it her own twist.” Lawyers can similarly look at well-known lawyers they admire, study how they become marketing successes, and duplicate them with their own twists.
• Lady Gaga actively markets online. Lady Gaga has more than 26 million followers on Twitter, “and she writes her own Twitter messages” rather than hiring someone else to do so.