What Are You Doing About Your Under-performing Partners?
- Their billable hours don't match their peers.
- Their clients are never quite satisfied with the results.
- Their practice doesn't sustain itself. They're not bringing new clients or matters into the firm.
- They can't or won't adapt to a changing marketplace.
- They are tired, burned-out or just plain bored.
Time to clean house?
While that collection of symptoms may be pointing towards separation, unless you have approached the problem with something other than a stern talking to with the concomitant threat of job loss, you may be missing a great performer who just doesn't know how to get with the program.
Why not give it one more try?
Your underperforming partner may just need a break to get renergized. Or, he or she may need the assistance of a professional who can help focus efforts where they will do the most good. A Business Development coach is one very good option. I've seen miracles occur when the partner is willing to work new strategies and build new habits. Professional organizers are another good example of help that can get the partner back in control of billable time and work product.
Allow enough time for change to occur but not so much that there's no incentive to change
In my experience, firms dealing with under-performing partners typically give that individual a year to turn things around. It doesn't have to be a year in every situation, but it does have to be a reasonable amount of time to allow for change to occur.
What if nothing or not enough happens?
Well, now it may be time to say good bye. Here are a few ways you can help the individual make a graceful exit and transition into the next phase of her or her career, whatever that may be.
- Provide a minimum of six months of outplacement services in the form of one-on-one legal career coaching.
- Provide office space, support staff, email, and voice mail so they can appear to be employed while they are looking for their next opportunity.
- Establish a reasonable timeline for supporting their job search efforts.
Look for and address warning signs early
Disengaging from an underperforming partner can be a gut-wrenching experience and one that only gets worse the longer the inevitable is delayed. Take stock now and be prepared to offer resources for reversing what looks like it could be a trend. It will save you time and money in the long run.
Until next time,