WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK
Such a reaction is driven by your knowledgethat no one can know you as you do; nor cananyone else understand what you were goingthrough when you wrote X, did Y or said Z.
To further muddy the waters, performancereviews can often be subjective.The Appraisal RationaleMeaningful feedback
The idea here is thatif you know what more experienced othersthink of your work product and concludeabout you personally, you’ll want to moldyourself into what is expected, and paren-thetically, if you don’t want to mold yourselfinto this image, you’ll leave. Either way, thefirm benefits. In this instance the perfor-mance appraisal is ‘meaningful’ as a tool forgenerating conformity and weeding out mis-fits. Before you raise a cry of outrage, thinkabout this a moment. The goal is not to turnyou into a Stepford Wife. You can be a crossdresser outside work and secretly pull thewings off of live flies for all anybody cares.The purpose is to encourage you to becomepart of a team while at work and not a planetcircling around some distant star. On yourown, you can be as counter-cultural as youwish, unless, of course you bring unfavorablepublic attention to yourself and your firm. Dothat and you’re likely to hear about it on yournext performance appraisal if not before.
This is a dubious claim. It can happen, butfrequently the opposite occurs. Bad vibes aregenerated. Yet, if lawyers can be convincedthat the system is unbiased and the appraisalprocess conducted dispassionately, the oc-casional bad feeling will not become part arising chorus of smoldering discontent. Thecomponent missing here, and it ought to bementioned, is discretion. Rather than createimproved communication, which smacksof corpspeak, the goal of the appraisalprocess should be to remain confidential-a private summing up between appraiserand appraised that hopefully clears the air,establishes baselines for future on-the-jobconduct, and sets the agenda for a less frac-tious future.
Maintenance of Standards
Hard to argue with this one. A firm has aright to set standards and it has a right toexpect you to adhere to them. The problemcomes when these standards are not clearat the start. In an article on the performanceappraisal in the March 17, 2003 edition of theLos Angeles Daily Journal, which specializesin local legal news, the writer, ConsultantIda Abbott advises any law firm to first as-sess the competencies desired and then:“…identify five to 10 specific componentsto be evaluated for each key performancestandard. If one of your standards is ‘profes-sionalism,’ it must be dissected into specific,observable tasks, skills, attitudes, behav-iors and attributes that characterize what alawyer must do to demonstrate that quality.For example, one component might be ‘at-tention to detail: Is thorough and tenacious incompleting complex and multifaceted tasks;work product is neat and free of errors.’”
Facilitates Career PlanningOkay, So The Appraisal Process Is Not Per-fect! How Do I Proceed?
Your first battle is to win a fight with your- self
. As we have said, you are emotionallypredisposed and programmed to protectyourself from bad news, especially if throughyour actions you caused the bad news tohappen. Your mind will deliberately rational-ize your mistakes. It will attribute them toevents beyond your control. It may even shiftblame to others. In short, your brain willdo almost anything to avoid confronting thetruth of your own error. So, your first job is toconfront this aspect of yourself and attemptto override it. Easier said than done, right?Well, awareness is half the battle. When youmake a mistake, go ahead and rationalizeit all you want, but allow part of your brainto recognize it for what it was, a blunder.
Start with prevention. Where attorneys get themselves in needless difficulty is not own- ing up to mistakes.
Most mistakes can befixed quickly. If you find yourself making thesame type of mistake over and over, you needto be on the outlook for this predilection.Then your brain can start building fail-safemechanisms to guard against similar futuremistakes.
Learn the system
. Every firm hasits idiosyncrasies.For instance, in your firm, what is considereda respectable amount of billable hours? Arepartners down in the trenches with associ-ates or do they have a tendency to remainaloof? How is work assigned? How is itevaluated? If you get in the flow sufficientlyto operate automatically, then the aspects ofthe system that seem petty or unnecessarywill eventually be forgotten.
.But don’t do so too often. Don’t go runninginto a supervising partner or senior associateevery three or four hours to ask ‘How am Idoing?’ Your insecurity will soon cause irrita-tion and you will look like a whiner and nota ‘take charge’ individual. Instead, choosequiet times, outside the office if necessary, toask the assessment of someone senior whomyou trust. There are good and bad ways to dothis. A bad way might go like this: You: Well,how am I doing? Partner: What do you mean?You: You know, my work performance. Is itokay? In your opinion, am I partner material?What does the bonus situation look like thisyear? How much do you think I will get?
Here’s what you did wrong in this conversa-tion
.First, you put the partner on the spot. You didnot give him or her enough time to reflective-ly respond to your first question before youasked the second question. As for the secondquestion, if you have only been with the firma few years there may be no way of tellingif you are or are not partner material. True,impressions about you have begun to form.