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Most law firms have some formal system for work performance reviews. These often are annual, written reviews by supervisors with principal responsibility for managing particular projects. But such reviews may be very far from the actual events, and in many cases the reviewers may not directly communicate with the reviewed lawyers. For junior to mid-level associates, such reviews cannot provide the immediate guidance that is most essential early in a career. As a result, more immediate connection is required to get real feedback when it is most needed. Viewed from the senior lawyer perspective, there may be some natural disincentives to provide such feedback. The demands of clients, building a practice, and managing operations of the firm, all may interfere with the time required to produce effective feedback. The felt sense that associate attrition is inevitable, also may contribute to the desire to “let someone else do the training.” But there are real advantages, both short term and long term, from providing effective feedback. Such commentary generally makes better lawyers in the long run, but even the smallest amounts of interest and concern expressed may immediately bolster morale, and contribute to effective team functioning. Just a few simple suggestions may suffice: • Look for ways to interact with junior associates on a regular basis. Team meetings and calls can be occasions both for handing out assignments, and for giving praise or correction where necessary. • When giving praise, or criticism, try to be as specific as possible. Look for the most important elements of the work performed, and how those specific things could be improved (or should be done consistently, if the work was good). Give feedback that can be used immediately (not just, “do good work,” but “you should work on X, Y or Z skill, in the following way”). • Give suggestions of additional resources. If you know of a good book or article, give it out to juniors to read (or distribute the reference to a training coordinator). For junior lawyers, the temptation to avoid soliciting feedback may be equally powerful. The desire to avoid interfering with senior lawyers, coupled with a subconscious sense that “no news is good news,” may keep many junior lawyers from asking for feedback. Here are a few simple suggestions to break out of that pattern: • Do not wait to the end of a project to seek feedback. While you are doing the work, look for ways to ask questions of senior lawyers as to how best to do the work, and/or do it better. Keeping senior lawyers apprised of your progress during the project is the best way to maximize your chances of getting feedback. • Look for ways to make personal contact. Face to face communication is best, but a telephone call comes a close second. The question is: “Do you have a second to talk about the X project? If not, what’s a good time to talk?” Often, such personal contact will come naturally when you have a chance to drop off some materials to the senior lawyer, or to provide some other important information. • Be specific about what you want. Think of the things that have been most challenging (or most satisfying) about the project, from your perspective, and ask about how to overcome such challenges, or how to get more such positive experiences. Or, flip the question around, and ask what the senior lawyer thinks about the project’s ups and downs. Then ask what you can do to help do the job better, or to do a similar job better the next time. • Express thanks for any feedback (good and even bad). Better you should encourage commentary (no matter how scary the prospect), than to appear ungrateful or uninterested. And the sense that you are taking responsibility for your own career development should give you a feeling of progress. Ultimately, moreover, most senior lawyers will mark you as mature and professional for taking such a proactive approach. Steven C. Bennett is a partner in the New York City offices of Jones Day and a member of the firm’s training committee. His publications include: The Path to Partnership: A Guide For Junior Associates, (Praeger 2004).

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