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Posted 8th September 2020

360 Feedback For Law Firms – Finally Fixed

With the help of two UK consultancies, law firms are starting to understand that 360-degree feedback should – and can – be better.

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360 Feedback For Law Firms – Finally Fixed
360
Michael Coates, Managing Director

With the help of two UK consultancies, law firms are starting to understand that 360-degree feedback should – and can – be better.

Law firms have often used 360-degree feedback to appraise and develop staff, but the investment put in is often rewarded with pretty lacklustre results. We can partly thank poorly designed tools for this, as many companies try to fit the square peg of regular 360 models into the round hole that is the legal profession. The fact is that the tools available, while often marketed at the legal sector, are simply not designed to address the specialist needs of this niche market. What works for manufacturing or the service sector, just doesn’t work for law firms.

Determined to tackle the problem head on, a joint initiative has been set up by two UK-based consultancies, Protostar Leadership Development and Passmore Consulting, which has worked with a panel of law firm partners to develop a range of 360 tools that are properly tailored to the requirements of the legal sector. Designed purely for development (as opposed to formal performance management) and ensuring complete anonymity, the new system does away with the most blatant pitfalls that have dogged law firms’ use of 360s in the past.

Three new tools have been launched by Protostar and Passmore; each of which is created to meet the needs of law-firm partners at different stages of their careers. The first takes aim at equity and managing partners, with a heavy emphasis on strategic skills and governance, essential if the firm is to grow and thrive in an ever-changing market.  The second has been built to develop other levels of law-firm partners, covering both the strategic and operational behaviours, typically seen in those partners most likely to progress to the next level. The third tool, meanwhile, is aimed at prospective partners and assesses both the skills they are currently demonstrating and those that will be required if they are to advance to partner level.

Crispin Passmore – Passmore Consulting
Crispin Passmore – Passmore Consulting

Three new tools have been launched by Protostar and Passmore; each of which is created to meet the needs of law-firm partners at different stages of their careers. The first takes aim at equity and managing partners, with a heavy emphasis on strategic skills and governance, essential if the firm is to grow and thrive in an ever-changing market.  The second has been built to develop other levels of law-firm partners, covering both the strategic and operational behaviours, typically seen in those partners most likely to progress to the next level. The third tool, meanwhile, is aimed at prospective partners and assesses both the skills they are currently demonstrating and those that will be required if they are to advance to partner level.

“Over the last 13 years I have delivered 360-degree feedback to over 2000 managers around the world and helped them to create individual development plans,” explains Michael Coates, Managing Director of Protostar Leadership Development – a former AI Innovation Award winner.

“While doing this for a wide range of managers at the Solicitors Regulation Authority in the UK, I came across one of their executive directors, Crispin Passmore, who now runs Passmore Consulting, and met a number of former law firm partners. They explained that their previous experience of 360s, to put it lightly, had not been a positive one, and I was keen to find out why.”

As Michael began working with Crispin and legal sector specialists, it soon became apparent that generic 360s were not suitable for law firms as they differ considerably in both structure and culture from typical businesses. “The combination of a tool that was a poor fit, along with the competitive nature and resistance to peer feedback often found in law firms, meant it was no surprise that 360s were not working,” says Michael.

protostar

Throughout 2019, partners, solicitors and practice managers were interviewed to identify the typical competencies demonstrated by those who excel in the sector. The results were incorporated into 360 models, creating a new approach that Michael and Crispin are sure will come as a refreshing change to the legal sector.

“The ability to both give and receive constructive feedback is often seen as a strength, yet relatively few individuals actually enjoy being the provider and even fewer like being on the receiving end,” says Crispin. “This is a common dilemma with professionals who know that to improve they should elicit such feedback but are fearful of highlighting any shortcomings that could hinder an upcoming promotion. The legal profession is no stranger to this scenario, yet still the focus is often on individuals meeting billing targets.”

To tackle these challenges, Michael and Crispin’s 360s allow individuals to assess themselves online against a comprehensive range of statements such as:

  • Demonstrates and awareness of the politics within the firm but is not overtly political in approach
  • Understands and responds effectively to new entrants to the legal market
  • Actively seeks out sustainable revenue streams and ensures other staff do so too

Their manager or board member will then also rate the individual, along with colleagues and direct reports. Responses and development suggestions keyed into the system are anonymous and the report is only seen by the individual and the Protostar consultant, who is there to both explain the feedback and help the construction of development plan.

Now that the 360-feedback process for the legal sector is fixed – there is nothing to stop progressive law firms from ensuring their partners have detailed personal development plans.

More details can be found at Protostar-uk.com/360feedback-lawfirmpartners

Categories: Legal


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