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How to succeed at Performance Review – Transcript to Video

If you’d like to watch the video version, it’s here.

I’m Alex Gotch and I’m a Director at Beacon Legal. I’ve been through a number of performance reviews as a lawyer and as a recruiter I have advised hundreds of candidates on how to best prepare to get the most out of their review.

Approaching your review in the right way gives you the opportunity to reaffirm your contribution and value to the firm, take on constructive feedback to develop your skills and importantly, to set a clear plan to continue your career development.

We commonly hear that Performance Reviews are not given the attention they deserve by Partners or by lawyers, with lack of time as the most common excuse. We all know that lawyers are busy people, so in 5 minutes today we will give you 5 tips to get the most from your Performance Review, which you can use a checklist to help your preparation.

Tip 1 – No Surprises

When you walk into your Performance Review, you should already have a good idea of the positives as well as the points of development required from you. This is all about clear and consistent communication. If you do not get consistent feedback from your Manager or the Partners throughout the year, you should be proactive and take it upon yourself to seek it out.

Do you have at least one meeting per month with your supervisor to assess your performance? The more time you can get one on one with a Partner or your direct Manager the quicker you will develop. If you don’t, then why not ask? Most managers will be happy to agree to this and it also shows your eagerness to learn and grow your career with the firm.

This is especially relevant if you feel there is a gap in your learning or there is a problem which needs to be dealt with. It is nearly always better to discuss the situation as promptly as possible.

Tip 2: Preparation is key

Before you start preparing, think of your career goals, whether you want a promotion, new opportunities, a pay rise or all 3. Keep them in mind as it’s good motivation to focus on when you’re preparing.

Set time aside to complete your company’s Performance Review template as fully as possible. To do it properly takes longer than you think so don’t leave it until the last minute. Think of it was a tender document and business plan all in one. It should clearly set out 4 main subjects:

Your achievements where you should use specific examples. What you want to improve ensuring you’re honest and specific in your assessment.

Your financial results in the form of your annual billings against target, and your Plan for the following year, here is where you can set out what you want to achieve and ensure your career goals are aligned with the firm.

Tip 3: Analysing your performance and Tip 4 Create a Performance Analysis document

Your end goal is to have a document which clearly sets out your overall performance and contribution to the firm. There are 6 keys features you should include to create a performance analysis document. Let’s look at these in turn; the 6 areas are using examples; comparing against a job specification; your leadership qualities; client development; knowing your billings and development areas.

Number 1 – use examples of matters or cases which you’ve worked on –a good technique is to create a mini CV detailing your matters or cases and your personal role which helped achieve a positive result.

Number 2 – compare your performance against a Job Specification – if your firm has a Job specification for your role then you can compare your performance against it. If you meet and exceed most areas, you should be flagging this during your appraisal and discussing what you need to do to get that promotion.

Number 3 – be able to talk about your leadership qualities – to become a supervising lawyer you need to be able to train and mentor junior staff. In our experience, we find lawyers find it difficult to accurately describe their leadership qualities. Can you articulate what your management style is like? How do you resolve conflict and problems? How do you approach sensitive issues with a client? It’s important to be able to answer all of these questions and use examples to demonstrate your skills.

Number 4 – Client development – if you have received good feedback from your clients or even brought in new business you should make sure that this is discussed in the review meeting. We recommend creating a ‘Client Development File’ where you can keep all positive emails and feedback from clients as they’re received and you can use this when creating your Performance Review document. The ability to create and foster relationships is key to developing your legal career and especially if Partnership is the end goal.

Number 5 – Know your billings against target and don’t approach this as a job for the Partner. Partners will value your initiative if you are able to analyse your financial performance against target and it gives you a clear indication of your value to the firm from a financial perspective. Being a significant contributor of revenue is a powerful tool to positively negotiate your remuneration package and enter into promotion discussions.

Number 6 – Areas for development. Don’t be afraid to set out where you think you could have done better. This is an important part of improving performance and creating your plan for the following year. Set some clear deliverables and include milestones so that you can check them off as they’re achieved.

This leads us nicely into our final tip, tip 5: Set clear targets and expectations

Setting defined and measurable goals are key to your future success.

Ensure that when you receive your written Performance Review it contains your individual targets, both financial and non-financial. Ensure the targets are broken down into manageable time periods. Your quarterly goals should focus on granular detail and specific skills for you to improve, such as to demonstrate your ability to draft a Sale Agreement and your yearly target should focus on the big picture such as to demonstrate your ability to run an entire matter from start to finish with limited supervision.

You should leave your review with your firm’s version of SMART goals for the following year:

S –  specific, clear and understandable

M – measurable and results oriented

A –  attainable yet sufficiently challenging

R –  relevant to the target of the firm

T –  time-bound with specific milestones

To conclude, it’s imperative for your future career success to take Performance Reviews seriously and take the time to prepare. If you can implement the tips we have discussed today then you’re more likely to get the career development and rewards that you’re looking for.

If you are currently open to new opportunities, please get in touch with us by contacting Alex at

For tips on how to negotiate your pay review successfully, click here.

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