We at Swan Legal Search love to bring you the latest trends from across the state, as we see them. To that end, we’ve recently seen a few firms announcing that not only will they adjust the rates of associates based on performance reviews, but that they’ll ”publish” to their clients the names of each JD class of associates along with the firm’s assigned hourly rates.
Ostensibly this is to give clients more latitude to themselves make more informed choices about whom they want to work on their matters. Those with the lower rates look at this differently. They see this as the equivalence of hanging “loser” signs on them. Even in these tough economic times it’s fair to assume that most clients with sizable matters at stake aren’t likely to select an associate with a cheaper rate, but rather will want those whom the firm itself values as the best of the best. The likely result? Those with the low price tags will be shunned so their billables will drop, and eventually (and pretty much inevitably) the firm will dump them because they’re not meeting hourly requirements.
All firms do performance reviews. However, the traditional approach has been (and for most firms, remains) that the substance of the review remains confidential between the firm and the associate. The idea is to benefit the associate by letting her know those areas in which, in the firm’s view, the associate is doing well or needs improvement. In turn, this gives the associate the opportunity to work on those skills in which there was criticism. For those firms changing the rules and using the new ”publishing” doctrine, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop in morale amongst associates generally (“it could be me next time”) and perhaps a lawsuit or two from some enterprising associate who gets dumped as a result of this new procedure, thereby proving that maybe she wasn’t such a poor performer after all. Sometimes the old ways really are the best.
Harvey L. Gould, Esq. is an experienced trial lawyer and a business attorney. He’s tried over 100 cases to verdict and has mediated and arbitrated hundreds more, both as an advocate and as a trained mediator and arbitrator. He’s also handled numerous complex business transactions. We’re happy to have Harvey on the Swan Legal Search team. He works exclusively on lateral partner moves and recently had a very successful placement.