WHO SHOULD CONDUCT EVALUATIONS?
In many firms it is the compensation committee. In some of the larger firms it is a separate evaluation committee. However, there is a growing trend for the firm's management group, i.e., the executive committee, to conduct the evaluations and determine compensation. This is the process in most corporations. There are benefits to taking this approach in law firms.
Another approach in very large firms is to have the firm's management group evaluate the practice group heads and then have them evaluate the partners in their groups. Some small firms have instituted a peer evaluation process in which all the partners evaluate each other. However, it is almost impossible to adopt this practice in a large firm or one that has more than one office.
As noted above, in the current environment in the legal profession, evaluations of both partners and associates are often used as the basis for removing them because they are unproductive. This is understandable and can be the result. But the principal objective of partner evaluations should be, as it historically has been in successful firms, to improve firm productivity and performance, not just to clean house.
Robert W. Denney is president of Robert Denney Associates Inc. in Wayne, Pa. His firm provides strategic management and marketing counsel to firms throughout the United States and parts of Canada.