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How to ask the partners for an evaluation

A formal performance evaluation is an opportunity for you to showcase your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a chance to identify any discrepancies in expectations. Ask the partners these four questions to establish the evaluation criteria and then start a diary to record your achievements.

To assure continuing success at the job, the new administrator should make sure an evaluation is scheduled within the first year.

Like any employee, a law firm administrator needs a formal performance evaluation. Yet the administrator is often the one employee who does not get evaluated.

Many administrators don’t mention the oversight because they figure it is better to avoid the scrutiny. But it is not. Without an evaluation, good work goes unnoticed and unrewarded. Unknown problems can go unmentioned until the managing partner comes knocking on the door with a termination notice.

If the firm doesn’t have a formal evaluation process, ask the partners to set one up. Meet with them and ask to schedule an evaluation. Ask them to set a specific date; otherwise, the review may never get done.

An established administrator should request an annual evaluation. A new administrator, however, should request a six month review because when a change in administration occurs, there is usually something wrong and the newcomer needs to find out what the attorneys want to see improved. After setting the date, find out what criteria the partners want to follow and to do that ask four questions.

1. What are my responsibilities in this position?

That essentially gives a job description. It tells what responsibilities the partners expect to be carried out. The answer will likely be broad, perhaps that the partners want the administrator to be responsible for financial management, personnel, client development, technology and facility. To narrow it down, go to the next question.

2. What do you want me to accomplish?

Go down the list of responsibilities and ask what the partners want done in each area. With personnel management, for example, the answer might be that they want to reduce turnover. Having them spell out their expectations brings to light what they might expect of the administrator. If that’s not put into words, the administrator may put emphasis on other things, and what the administrator thinks is important may not be high on their priority list.

3. How will you measure my performance?

That forces them to be even more specific. Get an answer for each accomplishment. If one responsibility is financial management and the partners have said they want to reduce overhead expenses, ask by how much. Keep in mind they may want to reduce expenses by $500 a month, for example. That is exactly what they will want to see at review time.

4. Will my salary be part of the discussion?

That tells whether the performance review will result in a raise. If the answer is yes, be prepared to recommend an amount. If the answer is no, don’t plan to bring up salary during the evaluation.

Keep a diary of what gets done

To prepare for the coming review, the new administrator should set up an accomplishments diary right away. Start an electronic document with sections for each area of responsibility.

Keep a record of accomplishments in each area as they occur. Otherwise, they will be forgotten. This diary will be a log of where problems have been identified and resolved, and will provide valuable evidence of your accomplishments at your first performance review as a new administrator.

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