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  • Writer's pictureJaap Bosman

Talent is the new battleground for law firms

Research points towards talent being the key ingredient distinguishing the elite law firms from the mid-tier. Analyzing common characteristics of partners ranked tier-1 or tier-2 by Chambers or Legal500 shows that it is not legal knowledge but soft skills and talent that make the difference. Rainmakers typically did not build their practice on outstanding knowledge of the law, but on their other less tangible talents.

Given the importance of non-legal skills, it is quite surprising that law firms do not really invest in developing such skills. As any law firm will have a well-organized and structural program for legal education and training, only few have a comparable program in place for the non-legal development of their lawyers. Law firms are underutilizing their revenue and profit potential as a consequence.

Talent is not only for recruitment

Perhaps recruitment is the only place where law firms are actually focused on soft-skills. Today it is not only the grades that count, but recruiters are specifically looking for extracurricular activities that demonstrate an interest beyond the law. Unfortunately once onboarded law firms seem not to be interested anymore.

The emphasis during one’s career path in a law firm is heavily on ‘making flying hours’. The idea behind this is that one will automatically one day make a great partner if one works hard and has a lot of experience. Until the day a lawyer is made partner, any development of the important non-legal skills is marginal.

Once partner, in most law firms all investment in personal development stops. Partners are supposed to be a ‘finished product’. No external input needed. What a missed opportunity!

Success is based on investment in people

The difference between an OK law firm and a highly successful law firm is in the talent. That is a fact. Few investments yield such high returns as smart investment in personal development of lawyers. Regardless if it’s novices or senior partners, every individual lawyer will benefit from developing and honing their non-legal skills.

What is holding firms back is often the fear that these programs go haywire, cost a lot of money, fail to produce results and turn out to be a waste of time. That is why we have developed the 360Talent Tool to help you out.

360Talent Tool

Based on over a decade of experience working with elite law firms we have defined the 7 Core Dimensions© on which highly successful partners score above average. Partly this is down to talent, but largely these dimensions can be developed and improved over time.

To minimize the risk of wasting time and to help law firms improve their partners’ skills over time we have developed our comprehensive easy-to-use 360Talent Tool ©. The tool helps identifying development opportunities and offers the ability to track development progress over time. The tool is easy to use and takes very little valuable partner time. The 360 produces reliable, objective and actionable results.

The 360, how does it work?

Basically the 360 is a simple anonymous online evaluation. All partners are invited to rate each other on each of the 7 dimensions. Rating is easy: 5 stars means excellent and no priority for improvement. 1 star signals priority for improvement. 2/3/4 stars are somewhere in-between. Experience shows that it takes on average 3 minutes to evaluate one partner. This has a significant positive effect on the participation rate. On average more than 90% of all partners fills out the questionnaires.

It is obvious that there are subjective elements at play when rating other partners. There will be differences in interpretation of what each of the dimensions mean, and some partners will not know some of their fellow partners well enough. The guiding principle is that evaluation should be based on ‘intelligent intuition’. Post examination of result has showed that this methodology works really well and indeed produces reliable results.

The procedure is fully managed by us. All you have to do is provide the list with email addresses and make sure our survey is not blocked by your firm’s firewall. We send out the surveys and the reminders. We do the analysis and provide the results in an actionable and comprehensive manner. No need to say that the survey is 100% anonymous. It is not possible for anyone, including us, to see who did what evaluation.

Inspiring, Actionable and Measurable

One of the key advantages of the 360Talent Tool is that it provides totally objective insights to each partner and as such a powerful tool for future development. Because of the methodology the results are completely free of any bias. Feedback does not depend on individual relationships or anecdotal evidence. We have found that this significantly increases the acceptance.

On an individual level the scores provide an unparalleled and neutral insight in on what dimensions best to focus when it comes to individual talent development. As the survey will be repeated on an annual basis is becomes possible to track progress and development over time. This is a strong incentive for partners to change and improve their skills.

Positive effect on firm culture

We have noticed that in some firms there is an initial negative attitude regarding the concept of partners evaluating partners. These firms fear that the evaluating partners will ‘unleash the beast’ and highlight inequalities between partners. Such sentiments of caution seem more common with law firms that have a low-trust culture. In reality however we have so far not noticed such adverse effects.

On the contrary, inviting partners to actively think about what each of the 7 dimensions means to them and to their firm, has commonly led to open discussions that solidified the values of the firm and created a stronger feeling of operating under a ‘shared vision’.

The majority of the partners who have participated so far, embrace the opportunity to further develop as they subscribe to the necessity of permanent improvement to keep up with market demands and maintain a competitive edge over their peers in the market.

Who is it for?

Law firms that aspire to be the winners in their market must turn themselves into talent breeding institutions. The law firm that attracts and maintains the top talent will be the one with the most interesting clients and mandates and the highest profit per equity partner.

Talent is not just something one is born with. It needs to be developed, honed and maintained. Our 360 is the best tool currently available in the market to support law firms in this process. Our methodology is suitable for any law firm from 18 to about 80 partners.

Jump on the opportunity

Don't wait and take positive action right now. Drop Lisa an email and get a free proposal that you can use for further discussion within your firm:


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