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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms


ISBN13: 9781908640017
Published: October 2011
Publisher: Ark Group
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Paperback
Price: Out of print



Disagreeable as it is, the matter of partner underperformance is a live issue for law firms today. Not handling it correctly can have severe consequences for your firm including damage to its reputation, the morale of your high performers and overall bottom line.

Managing Partner's report on Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms is the only guide to handling this extremely sensitive issue both compliantly and effectively to improve the financial and overall performance of your firm. Packed with real-life examples, models and checklists along with the sought-after advice of leading law firm consultant Nick Jarrett-Kerr, this critical guide will enable you to:-

  • Define roles and communicate clear and measurable expectations of partnership;
  • Customise a balanced performance management system for partners;
  • Implement a performance measurement framework that aligns reward with performance;
  • Assess the most appropriate options available for supporting or dealing with struggling partners;
  • Follow a step-by-step plan and timetable for managing underperformance;
  • Understand the sensitivities involved in changing governance to deal with underperformers; and
  • Implement an effective strategy for communicating throughout the process.
Real-life case studies from Taylor Vinters, Cobbetts, Capsticks and a number of other undisclosed firms highlight both the successes and failures in the field. You will also find practical resources within the report that can be adapted and implemented immediately within your firm,

Subjects:
Legal Practice Management
Contents:
Executive summary...VII About the author...XI Acknowledgements...XIII Part one: Defining and managing partner underperformance Chapter 1: Introduction and trends...3 Motivating partners to perform...5 Setting standards and managing performance...6 Defining underperformance...7 The implications of performance issues within law firms...8 Managing for success - ...10 Chapter 2: Clarifying and defining the expectations of partnership...13 Understanding critical areas of performance...15 Typical critical areas of performance...15 Defining specific roles and responsibilities to play to strengths...18 Human capital and the development of people and skills...18 Structural capital and the development of the firm as an institution...19 Relational capital and the development of business...19 Economic capital and the management of performance...20 Annexe 1: Sample role descriptions...21 Annexe 2: Sample indicators of competency behaviours for an entry level equity partner...25 Chapter 3: Understanding why partners underperform or are underproductive...27 Reason 1: Wrong choice of partner...27 Reason 2: Failure to keep up with the pace of change...27 Reason 3: Non-core areas of law...28 Reason 4: Internal political troubles, quickly formed perceptions and favouritism...29 Reason 5: Trouble at home...29 Reason 6: Stress, depression, insecurity and loss of confidence...30 Reason 7: Burnout and boredom...30 Reason 8: Lifestyle and comfort zones...31 Reason 9: Imbalanced personal scorecard...32 Reason 10: Merger and extreme change...32 Understanding underperformance...32 Chapter 4: Judging, rating and assessing partners...33 Data, evidence and measures...33 Measuring effort...34 Methods of rating partners...35 Model 1: An overall banded rating...37 Model 2: Performance scoring...37 Model 3: Forced ranking...39 Annexe 1: Possible metrics...41 Chapter 5: Aligning with the partner rewards system...47 The links between performance management and the various models of lockstep...47 The main benefits of a sharing or lockstep system of profit sharing...47 The drawbacks of lockstep...48 How lockstep works...48 Trends for firms retaining 'pure' lockstep...48 Performance management in eat what you kill and formula systems...49 Optimising the compensation system to align with partner performance...52 Aligning systems...53 Chapter 6: Supporting and rehabilitating underperforming partners...59 Helping lawyers to respond to change...59 Supporting through collegiality...60 Should partners be self-starters?...60 Coaching...61 Mentoring...62 Outplacement...62 Counselling and medical support...63 Skills training...63 Intensive care...63 Chapter 7: Systems for partner performance management...65 Objectives for a performance management system...66 Partner personal plans...67 Reviewing, appraising and assessing partners...68 Reinvigorating review systems...69 Managing expectations...70 Giving feedback...70 Gaining feedback from others...71 Setting objectives...73 Summary of partner review processes...75 Annexe 1: Sample template for a partner business plan...76 Chapter 8: Managing underperformance...81 The link with the firm's governance and partnership compensation scheme...82 Setting criteria and constant standards...83 Dealing with difficult partners...84 The support procedure for underperformers...84 Cascading the principles of active management throughout the firm...86 Persistent follow-up...87 Annexe 1: Sample performance criteria and checklist for managing partners, finance directors and department heads...88 Chapter 9: Options for coping with underperformers...91 The changing scene - Relative underperformance...91 Reinvigorating moderate performers...92 Incremental performance improvement across teams and the firm...92 Addressing weak performance areas...92 Chapter 10: Governance issues...97 Changes in law firm governance...97 Essential elements for defining partner disciplines and accountabilities...98 The leadership challenge...100 Partnership voting rights...102 Changing the governance...102 Chapter 11: Communications...105 Communicating with underperformers...105 Communications within the firm...108 Client succession issues...109 External publicity and communications...109 Part two: Case studies Case study 1: Partner performance systems and rewards at Capsticks...113 Focus on outcomes rather than inputs...113 Ranking of partners...114 Underperformance...114 Case study 2: Managing underperformance at Cobbetts...117 The fallacy of underperformance and partner vilification...117 Matching contribution and reward...117 Finding new roles elsewhere...117 Managing people out of the business...118 False economies...118 Case Study 3: Taylor Vinters - Managing performance in a smaller firm...119 Partner performance management in medium-size firms...119 Partner profit sharing and lockstep...120 Core roles for partners...120 Coping with underperformance...121 Case Study 4: How a large US firm deals with brown-out and underperforming partners...123 Dealing with brown-out practices and clients...123 Innovative transitional support...124 Appendix: The Edge International 2011 Survey into the Management of Underproductive and Underperforming Partners...127 Index...141