Managing Performance in Law Firms

15 February 2016

Managing performance in Law Firms – Have you got it right?

As we approach the mid-point of Q 1, I expect many Managing Partners have held or are about to hold their first Management Meetings of 2016. How is it looking? Ideally you will be on or ahead of your plans, but if not you may be wondering why and more importantly if you can catch up.

Whatever the position, you may want to ask yourself some questions;

  • Have you set the right targets?
  • Are you measuring the right things?

I’m my experience setting performance targets in law firms can often be a very ad hoc process with little or no science behind it. It can be a crude as;

“…well you achieved £X last year so shall we say £X + 10% for 2016…?”

Looking for growth is laudable but I think it has to be based on sound rationale. Who is to say that this arbitrary increase is correct, it could be too low in which case it becomes easily achievable and you may over reward the individual or team concerned. Equally it may be too high and so wholly unachievable which is de-motivating.

I definitely subscribe to the mantra that – “…what gets measured gets done…” but that does of course assume that you are measuring the right things. My recommendation would be to ask yourself what behaviours are the targets you set likely to drive?

  • Do those targets fit with your strategic goals?
  • Are the targets relevant for your kind of business?

A great example is rewarding people on bills delivered, but ignoring cash received. This simply encourages people to invoice as much as they can without any thought as to whether the client will agree and then pay the bill.

I would favour an approach based on client satisfaction, as in my experience happy clients pay bills and will recommend others to use your services!

Also do the targets encourage a silo mentality or team work? If rewards are simply based on personal performance then why would people work together? Whereas, if there are elements of team performance and indeed the performance of the wider business which result in reward, you will create a more unified approach.

My final tip would be not to operate a secret society. Be inclusive and share good news but also explain bad news. Most people care about the businesses they work for and want to do well. If you involve them they tend to work harder to achieve the goals you set.