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AUTHOR : Steven De Keyser

DATE : 15 December 2012

Acid test for lawyers

We developed a very simple and basic tool to quickly check how well you may “fit” the most common expectations on lawyers in business law firms or legal departments of larger institutions. While it does not aim to cover all different qualities that are expected of today’s business lawyers and should not be relied upon for any final conclusions, it may serves as guidance as to whether you are broadly on the right track, and even more importantly whether a law firm or legal department is. 

The test requires to score yourself (or your team) on 4 key themes : Quality, Availability, Empathy, Team spirit. These four themes have proven to be some of the most critical attributes in terms of successful delivery of legal services. Other matters, such as financial performance and/or reputation, typically follow from the actual performance on the 4 above criteria. 

Obviously our test is only an acid test and should as such not be your only basis to come to sure conclusions, but it provides a reliable indicator that may allow you to prioritize certain matters in your team or firm going forward. If you apply the test to yourself, it may give you an indication of matters you may wish to consider for your personal further development. 

Quality : the quality of the work in terms of innovation, technical excellence and presentation skills. You will score as follows : Top quality at all times : 9, Good quality most of the times : 6, Sometimes sloppy work : 3, Quality too often not at level : 0. 

Availability : Being responsive, feedback within a number of hours, managing expectations and meeting agreed timeline. You will score as follows : Always feedback within 24 hours and virtually always managed expectations and meeting agreed timelines : 9, Most of the times meeting those criteria : 6, Sometimes sloppy in meeting those : 3, Often missing timeline or not really available within 24 hours : 0. 

Empathy : Understanding better the client, its industry and what really matters, ensuring that each response really takes into account the particular needs and demonstrates a very good understanding of the person and/or entity having formulated the request. You will score as follows : High empathy : 9, Most of the times empathy : 6, Sometimes lack of empathy : 3, Often missing empathy : 0. 

Team : Working well in team with strong efforts to bring in colleagues and sharing success. You will score as follows : Virtually always working well in team : 9, Most of the times working well in team : 6, Sometimes not working well in team : 3, Most of the time not working well in team : 0. 

Do apply the test to yourself, but also ask someone you know well to score  you as well. If your score is below 25, you may have an issue and may need to consider a performance improvement plan. The good news is that on each of the 4 criteria each person is capable of making substantial progress by focusing and working on a clear action plan. To consider the performance of your team, you will add up all the scores of the individual persons and divide it by the number of people. You will look at each of the four criteria separately. Should the average score for each of the four units be below 6, then you will want to consider a performance improvement plan for the team on the specific topic(s). 

Apply the tests and find out where you and your team stand. Do not consider the results to be all saying truths, but engage in a discussion and reflection that can lead to change and ultimately an improved performance. 

At Bignon De Keyser, we have developed specific programs to improve individual and team performance for the legal profession. It applies to lawyers in law firms, lawyers in legal departments and other legal professions. It is a mix of team and individual performance coaching. Feel free to contact us, should you wish to discuss this in more detail.