Coaching partners to perform

Coaching partners to perform

big-bookWhen you strip back all the issues surrounding law firm performance, it is the performance of partners which determines the success or not of the business. They are responsible for bringing in clients, they undertake or supervise the work, they manage client relationships, they promote the firm, they oversee the firm’s finances, resources and infrastructure, and they provide the capital for the business. If you have too many underperforming partners, the business quickly suffers.

Supporting partners

So, why do so many law firms not support their partners when these are failing to perform against some of the tasks just outlined? And by ‘support’ I don’t mean being invited in to see the senior partner to be berated, sorry, ‘encouraged’ to do better.

Too many firms make lawyers up to partner and then expect them to get on with it, as if the act of providing business cards saying “Partner” endows them with excellent client handling, man-management, business development and mentoring skills. It does not. Selecting young lawyers for partnership is another step on their developmental path; it is far from the end.

Senior partners of many years standing can also find themselves struggling to perform for a number of reasons including the loss of key clients, changes in the market which they have failed to adapt to, problems in their personal life, loss of confidence, greater accountability internally, including more demanding financial targets which they are failing to hit, etc.

Partner appraisals

Giving partners the support that they need in order to carry out their roles effectively should start with an assessment of their development needs, which should be part of the appraisal process.

All law firms should have an appraisal process for their staff, and this includes partners. It is good practice, which if done properly can significantly improve performance and motivation. Unfortunately, too many law firms either have no appraisal process or one that does not function effectively.

At its most basic, partners should be appraised annually with perfor

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About the author:

Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all aspects of marketing and business development for nearly 30 years. As a consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well as to win new ones. As a certified coach with WABC he works with partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.