Fleshing out Partner Roles and Responsibilities

A couple of years ago I posted quite a long piece on my blog entitled “Partner Roles and Responsibilities”. I suggested some methodologies for a firm to follow in order first to clarify what the firm expects of its partners and then to define what roles and responsibilities it needs them to perform.

I also set out six fairly typical “Critical Areas of Performance” often seen in law firms. These were:-

  1. Financial and Business Performance,
  2. People Management, Leadership and Teams/Skills Development
  3. Business Development
  4. Client Relationship Management
  5. Contribution to the Firm as an Institution
  6. Self-Development and Self Leadership

Under each of these I suggested various attributes, competencies and contributions which a firm might expect a partner to be demonstrating. But all of these beg even more questions as otherwise the terrible temptation is for a partner to claim that he or she is making a valuable contribution but without any evidence to back up the assertion. In my view, it is therefore necessary to dig deeper. One way of doing this is to move on to the subject of behaviours and success indicators which effectively demonstrate the attainment of an objective or the making of a valuable contribution by reference to behaviours, facts and specific outcomes. Hence, the indicators for the area of Business Development might show that the partner is making a valuable contribution because he or she

• Is acknowledged externally as a leading rain-maker
• Develops/maintains strong and profitable client relationships which are critical to the Firm’s success
• Cultivates helpful networks together with influential referrer and ‘good friend’ relationships
• Demonstrates work and contributions that consistently raise the Firm’s profile and brand nationally
• Is turned to by Colleagues for expert advice, training and support internally
• Has developed regular work-winning opportunities and successes through RFP’s, Beauty Parades or otherwise
• Has more than one client who regularly acts as referrer, reference or coach

These indicators can help in three ways. First, the burden is on the partner to demonstrate evidence of actual successes – facts rather than assertions. Second, the indicators can help to point to training needs in areas where the partner is weak. Third, the indicators can be used to help form outcome-based objectives for the next year or other review period.

The indicators will of course vary from firm to firm and from context to context. As I have pointed out many times before, everything needs to be aligned to the firm’s overall strategy and objective. I often help firms to draft these indicators and – in order to do so – it is vital to identify some exemplars within the firm of best practice (sometimes at differing career levels) in each of the Critical Areas of Performance and to find out from them what they actually do on a day to day basis that makes them excellent. This provides vital ingredients for the creation of lists of indicators for each career level which are practical and realistic.