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For law firms, autumn is marked not by pumpkins, but by the pro­cess that lawyers dread: performance evaluations. Most lawyers see this as a process to get through quickly and with as little discomfort as possible. And therein lies the problem.

The fact is, the evaluation process is crucial to the future success of associates — and law firms. It is also the area in which the effects of unconscious bias have thwarted the careers of many women. For more than a generation, 40% of the talent pool from which law firms draw their new associates has been made up of women, but the ranks of partnership do not reflect the demographics of the pool from which partners are drawn.

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