Mastering Associate Performance: A Comprehensive Checklist

Brain Kennel

January 24

Discover the ultimate checklist to evaluate and enhance associate performance in your law firm.

Marketing_Icon_Target1.) Make Evaluating Associate Performance a Priority

Evaluating associate performance is crucial for the success of a law firm. It allows firms to identify areas of improvement, recognize top performers, and ensure that associates meet the firm's standards. Law firms can make more informed decisions about promotions, bonuses, and professional development opportunities by evaluating associate performance. 

Performance evaluations provide valuable feedback to associates, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. This process aids in setting growth goals and improving performance. It also ensures high-quality legal services and client satisfaction. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement, helping associates reach their full potential.

2.) Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential in evaluating associate performance. KPIs are measurable goals or metrics that reflect associates' desired outcomes and expectations. These indicators can vary depending on the specific practice area and the firm's priorities. Some common KPIs for associates include billable hours, client satisfaction ratings, case outcomes, teamwork and collaboration, and business development efforts.

Firms not measuring client satisfaction through external methods face the challenge of gauging it indirectly. They often rely on alternative indicators of client contentment, such as the frequency of direct client case assignments, effectiveness in billing and collections, and the degree of autonomy granted to associates by clients in handling their legal matters. 

By defining clear and specific KPIs, law firms can effectively assess associate performance and align it with the firm's strategic goals. This process helps associates understand what is expected of them and provides a framework for evaluating their progress and contributions.

3.) Set Clear Performance Expectations

It is crucial for law firms to establish and communicate clear performance expectations to associates from the outset. This foundational step should detail the firm's foundational principles, including its core values, anticipated standards of work quality, professional conduct, and dedication to client service. Clearly articulating these expectations not only nurtures a transparent organizational culture but also ensures uniformity in performance assessments. Furthermore, it assists associates in comprehending how their individual performance is aligned with the firm's strategic goals and core values.

Icon_Support_Black4.) Implement Regular Feedback and Coaching Sessions

Law firms should establish a system for providing timely and constructive feedback to associates on their work performance. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, performance reviews, or feedback sessions after completed projects or cases. We prefer a structured practice planning approach that works from a written plan encompassing billable and non-billable activities.

Feedback is more effective when it is actionable and focused on strengths and improvement areas. It should also occur outside of formal evaluation schedules. Coaching sessions can provide additional support and guidance to associates, helping them develop new skills and overcome challenges.

In providing regular feedback and coaching sessions, a law firm creates a culture of continuous learning and improving.  Associates receive the guidance and support they need to excel in their roles and contribute to the firm's overall success.

5.) Provide Professional Growth and Training Opportunities

Law firms play a crucial role in the growth of their associates by offering them opportunities to participate in relevant training programs, workshops, and seminars.  Examples include involving an associate in a trial team for practical experience, even if it is not billable, or sponsoring their attendance at industry conferences and participation in professional organizations. These initiatives are instrumental in enhancing the associates' legal acumen and broadening their perspectives, ultimately adding value to the firm.

Moreover, law firms that implement mentorship programs and pair associates with experienced attorneys for guidance increase the chances of a successful long term relationship with the firm. This mentorship can provide valuable insights, advice, and opportunities for associates to learn from seasoned professionals.



Creating a thriving environment for associate attorneys is a multifaceted endeavor, blending the art of constructive feedback with the science of performance metrics. At its core, it's about nurturing a culture that values growth, fosters excellence, and aligns individual ambitions with the firm's broader vision. The journey from evaluating performance to providing developmental opportunities paves the way for associates to not only meet but exceed expectations, thus propelling the firm towards a trajectory of success and distinction.