Cordell Parvin Blog Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Lawyers: Why Real-Time Feedback Works and Year-End Reviews Don’t

Posted in Client Development

What do associates say when asked about the feedback they receive from partners for whom they work? Several years ago, I was asked to help with a workshop for the orientation of new partners at a large law firm. I suggested that the firm film top associates discussing this topic among others. I doubt any of you would be surprised by what they said.

Did you see 60 Minutes on Sunday night? I had not seen the segment about Nick Saban, or even a preview, when I posted my blog on Friday: Career Success: What Learning is Most Important?  In that blog, I included a quote that was the chapter 3 title of a book about Coach John Wooden.

It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts Most

What sets Nick Saban apart from other coaches? When I watched 60 Minutes, I learned how similar Coach Saban’s thinking is to Coach Wooden’s. When he was asked what his father would think about his huge success, he replied:

He envisioned a discussion on the need for even greater improvement: “No matter what the success level was, there would always be lessons to learn, things that you could do better and he would point those things out and it wouldn’t be about the accomplishments,” Saban said. “It would be more about how you could do it better, which I would appreciate by the way. I wouldn’t take that the wrong way.”

Here is the link to the CBS background discussion: 60 Minutes, behind-the-scenes with Nick Saban. Here is a link to be Bleacher Report summary: Nick Saban on ’60 Minutes’: Takeaways from Alabama Football Coach on CBS

Here is the link to the entire 60 Minutes segment:

http://youtu.be/xEp47-kX6jg

When you think about UCLA basketball, and Alabama football, you know right away that Coach Wooden played and Coach Saban plays  a huge role in their team’s success. All you have to do is look at the UCLA’s record after Coach Wooden retired, and Alabama’s record before Coach Saban arrived, to know they made a difference. Like Coach Wooden, Coach Saban recognizes that each player is different and he knows how to push the right buttons to get each player to perform at a peak level.

So, what will you learn if you watch the segment? I think you will learn how a coach, mentor, senior supervising lawyer can help young lawyers strive for excellence.

It starts with giving real-time feedback. Senior lawyers (coaches, mentors, supervising lawyers) should give both positive feedback and constructive feedback. As you will learn from watching the Nick Saban segment, the feedback should be real-time and consistent. The concept is simple, and the reasons for it clearly understood, but getting partners to actually do it takes real effort.

Law firms too often limit feedback to year-end reviews, and most of the year-end reviews are not very helpful. If your firm is like many, your professional staff has trouble getting your partners to complete their year-end reviews and when they complete the review, it is more like filling out a form to comply with the firm’s requirement. Your partners and your associates know the feedback is not really helpful.

If you want to better understand why year-end reviews don’t work, read this Forbes article: Ten Biggest Mistakes Bosses Make In Performance Reviews. I know from experience that senior lawyers make all 10 mistakes. If you and your colleagues, simply do the opposite of those mistakes, you will make great progress.

I am curious: Do lawyers in your firm give real-time feedback? Is giving real-time feedback a core value of your firm? When your lawyers give feedback is it constructive and effective? Do your associates value the feedback they are receiving? Are your associates getting better?