U.K.-based Eversheds Sutherland has scrapped “formulaic” annual performance reviews for all staff—the latest firm to rethink its approach to performance management.
As part of the overhaul, which applies to all offices outside the U.S., the firm will introduce quarterly feedback sessions for all fee-earners and staff, and managers will be encouraged to discuss performance issues with their teams on a more regular basis.
Partners and other managers are being trained in the new approach, with management gauging opinion on the shift through two staff surveys so far.
“We’ve had very positive responses to the new system,” Eversheds Sutherland co-CEO Lee Ranson told The American Lawyer’s London-based sibling publication Legal Week. “The historical annual appraisal process was formulaic and involved a lot of paperwork. The process is more dynamic now and keeps people more engaged,”
Ranson said when developing the new performance review process, he thought back to what he had found helpful when he was a junior associate. It was partners who spent regular time with him and helped him to identify and develop what he was good at that made the most difference, he said.
“We expect people to come out of meetings and have time to talk to their colleagues about their performance. We were very keen to implement something that improved the individual’s development as well as the performance of the business as a whole.”
Earlier this year, Eversheds introduced reverse mentoring for its executive committee, with a view to expanding this to other partners in the future.
Last week, the firm posted double-digit increases in both revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) for its legacy U.K. business during the 2017-18 financial year.
The firm boosted PEP by 12 percent from £726,000 ($971,352) to a record high of £812,000 ($1.09 million), while it took in revenues of £494.6 million ($661.75 million) during the last financial year—up 13 percent.
“We are very pleased with the results, which largely speak for themselves,” Ranson told Legal Week. “Our performance was strong across the whole international business. Our corporate and real estate practices had a particularly impressive year.”
Ranson said the results prove the firm’s growth strategy, which is based on a conscious effort to spend more time with clients to best serve their needs, is working. The firm’s subsequent lateral hiring strategy and office launches are in direct response to what the firm heard from clients, he said.
Eversheds is one of a number of firms currently shaking up their performance evaluation systems as more and more firms move away from the traditional annual structure for performance reviews. Hogan Lovells recently announced that it is scrapping annual feedback for associates in favor of a new program that directs associates to proactively seek input from partners and other colleagues about their performance throughout the year.
Meanwhile, Allen & Overy plans to move all of its staff to a new performance management scheme next year. And at the start of 2018, Slaughter and May overhauled its review system for associates, with performance scores dropped in favor of more ongoing feedback and mentoring by dedicated “continuity” partners.