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How Does Your Firm Measure Success?

Updated: May 15

For much of the 20th Century, corporate or law firm reviews, even for attorneys,  were performed by the manager or Chief Counsel based on their feedback and some metrics, e.g., win/loss ratio, the number of documents timely written, reviewed,  or otherwise completed, and, of course, the dreaded billable hour. As the old century passed into our current one, metrics and KPI-based performance reviews began to dominate the performance assessment process even more -- in some cases, completely overwhelming any other factor.  

This approach has benefits that no rational person can deny. For instance, it provides a patina of objectivity to the reviews and, if applied correctly, can even begin to make a dent into problems that can both sink a leader’s credibility and negatively impact the bottom line -- specifically illegal bias and discrimination in areas like performance assessment, salary, and promotions. As a side benefit, KPI and metrics-based performance reviews can help fend off unwanted employment litigation. 

On the flip side, it is only human nature to internally link the perception of professional success to what is measured and rewarded. If organizational success is solely tied to numerical measurements, the attorneys being measured will respond accordingly. This places an immense burden on professionals to consistently crank out positive KPIs and stellar metrics -- at the expense of everything else.

The risk of measuring leadership success and impact solely via KPIs and numeric metrics/outcomes is that, with potential leaders obsessing over numerical indicators of success, the organization’s leadership and the attorneys themselves can lose balance and focus. Just because someone bills a lot of hours or reviews more leases than anyone else does not mean they are an effective leader. 

In fact, the type of individual who might look like they are excelling on a KPI dashboard might, actually, be the exact personality type who will not succeed as a leader -- especially of highly educated and mobile professionals, who have the luxury of migrating to other employers who treat them as more than a number.

I recommend that lawyer-leaders take a more holistic approach to staff performance measurement: 

(a) Consider whether your employee’s professional trajectory is connecting to their purpose -- an innate calling -- or at least is moving them closer to it. If so, have you truly identified and written down the bigger picture reason for them being a leader - something outside of themselves? An excellent place to look for their connection to calling or mission is by discussing their leadership goals with your organization’s mission/vision statements or to your clients' needs. Are they related? If not, a red flag should be noted, even if, say, their billables are high. If so, creatively, perhaps even non-numerically, thinking about how they can succeed in your organization -- and how this success can be measured -- may be extremely worthwhile.

(b) Does their purpose as a leader -- their answer to the question above -- align with your firm’s or your clients’ ethical system(s), and/or is the staff person moving toward them? The answer to this question can save massive organizational risk in a way that pure numerical assessment cannot.

(c) Are the "non-negotiables" in their life -- the things they cannot or will not sacrifice for work -- being compromised?  If so, good numbers might mask the fact that a high-value employee is about to leave -- hurting overall firm performance and costing good money.

If you feel the only way to assess your team’s success is through numerical measurement, I recommend deeper and more meaningful thinking about what will make your firm and its potential leaders more resilient, creative, and connected to their work and themselves. A metrics-based measurement and accountability system to monitor and hold staff accountable is important, but not the whole picture. Using the ancient wisdom and stories of Greek mythology, I can teach you how to imagine leadership development in a way that will bring out your team members’ inner Hercules or Athena, and lead your firm on a journey to a more robust and sustainable bench of Mt. Olympus-style leaders. 

I want your future to be EPIC!


I'm Scott Mason, The Myth Slayer. I am an attorney and former C-Suite executive, coach, speaker, podcaster, and Master of the Mythic. I graduated from Columbia Law School and have spent years drawing on the full depth of a background spanning the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to provide lawyers feeling stuck or stagnant in their careers or as leaders with a unique (and fun!) system to help them live a life that's epic.

Click here to discover more about me, my mission, and how it can help you.

If you've ever said, "I'm capable of more -- and I want it?" ... then download my five-minute self-assessment, and I'll show you how to elevate your leadership, increase your impact, and find your powerhouse personal voice NOW!

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