Pivot the Annual Review

In this episode, I talk about annual reviews. This topic might be cringy to many people because the idea reminds lawyers of sitting down to be evaluated or critiqued. While that is undoubtedly the customary way of doing an annual review, I want to give you a framework for actually thinking about annual reviews differently. 


Law firm owners are not only trying to create the right culture and create sustainability in business, but they are also trying to create a value proposition for retaining promising talents. And a big part of employee retention is about meeting the needs of employees and the firm’s needs contemporaneously.


Tune in to today’s episode to learn more.


In this episode we discuss:


  • Meeting the needs of both the employee and the firm.
  • Building a culture in your law firm.
  • The importance of changing our point of view regarding the annual review.
  • 9 Questions to ask in an annual review that will get the best qualitative answers.
  • How every time you approach your employees, you’re having a sales conversation.
  • Differentiating needs over opportunities while communicating with your employees.
  • Building employee loyalty by meeting their needs.
  • Reaffirming that value systems are in alignment with what your law firm has as a value system that will give you both a win-win.


Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.


Allison Williams: [00:00:25] Hello, everyone, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. And on this week’s episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, we’re going to talk about annual reviews. So a lot of you probably cringe when you hear that because you’re probably thinking about what you may have been subjected to when you were an employee in a law firm or maybe even what you have heard of from some of your friends who are in big or bigger, more established law firms, the idea of sitting down to be evaluated or critiqued. And while that is certainly the customary way of doing an annual review, I want to give you a framework for actually thinking about annual reviews differently, because when we are in a small law firm, what we are doing is we’re not just trying to create the right culture and trying to create sustainability in business, I think all businesses, all law firms, in particular, are trying to do that. But what we’re really trying to do is we’re trying to create our value proposition and live our value proposition so that when we, when we get good talent, no matter where they come to us and their stage of development, and no matter where they come to us in the law firms stage of development, we’re ultimately going to retain that person because that person is going to grow and evolve with the law firm. And so much of employee retention is about meeting the needs of the employee as well as the needs of the firm contemporaneously.


Allison Williams: [00:01:57] And so often we either think about one or the other. So when we get a good employee, we think, what can I give them in order to make them happy? But the reality is that the approach that you should have to employees and retaining employees is really that you are having a sales conversation, every time you are sitting down with your employees to assess them and to have them assess your firms and this sales conversation is not that you try to convince them that your law firm is great or that they try to convince you that they should retain employment or grow in employment or get a raise or what have you. It really is that you both are looking under the hood to figure out what there is of a desire in the individual that they would elect to stay in the relationship that’s already been created rather than go out and form another relationship. And this is really critically important, whether you are in a small firm or a large firm because we know that according to the ABA, lawyers move around once every four years or so on average, and paralegals it’s actually more frequently once every three years. And so when you think about that, that level of change is very challenging if you build your culture. And we, of course, know that you’re building a culture around the people. The people are not the culture. But when you are building a culture it’s very challenging, when you are constantly having to stop the flow of growing the culture in order to replace people and get the new person on boarded to the existing culture before it performs and evolves into its next iteration.


Allison Williams: [00:03:36] So while we are, while we’re on this topic, I want you to start thinking about your interview as an opportunity for your employee, in particular, to get crystal clear on why they are working with you and not somewhere else. So that means the annual review process needs to include not just you telling them what they did right or wrong over the course of whatever defined period. Some people do annual reviews. Some people do quarterly reviews. Some people do bi-annual reviews. Certainly, the conversation with the employee should be ongoing at least a couple of times a year, but we’re going to approach this as an annual review because I want you to think about it from the frame of minimally having a big conversation at least once a year. All right. So here are some questions that I want you to contemplate asking of your employees so that you can get the best qualitative answer about how they view their role in the law firm, because ultimately you at the end of your review, are going to offer them to continue their employment.


Allison Williams: [00:04:41] Presumably, presumably, you’re not having a review with somebody who you don’t want to continue employment. Right. But you’re going to invite them to continue and you want them to be excited about the prospect of continuing in your law firm. So, there are essentially nine questions that I think you should ask in an annual review. And here they are. OK, so first you want to ask one of the things that the person likes about their job. This is pretty simple and you want to really frame it for them, not just you like your office, you like your secretary, you like your, you know, you like where the, where the firm is located. Right. Those are kind of high-level surface things. And certainly, those surface things do contribute to a person’s overall satisfaction, but you want to really be digging a little bit for what is it that fills you up about being here that you, as the business owner, can see as a differentiator if they were to go somewhere else? So what is the culture like in the office? Who are the people in the office? How does the work go to the employee? Are they somebody that is spoonfed work? And so they like having that one-to-one deep learning experience. Are they given kind of new cases from straight, straight out of the gate? And it’s their responsibility to run the case from beginning to end so they have freedom and autonomy and individualization.


Allison Williams: [00:06:05] Is that what the goal is? Is this, you know, is the person fulfilled in the work that they do? How do they, how do they process the type of work that they do? Right. Because, again, what you’re really trying to establish and you’re not going to necessarily say this, but you may intimate it at some point during the conversation. But you really want the person to get clear on the fact that they’re getting something of value in your law firm that is contributing to their happiness so that they see the happiness in the practice with the satisfaction that they have overall in staying in the practice rather than seeking something someplace else.


Allison Williams: [00:06:43] OK, things that they dislike. So here, that’s question number two, right. Things I dislike. So you really want to ask your employee what they do not enjoy about the practice in your law firm. Now, that can be any number of things. It doesn’t have to be that they’re going to ask you. I don’t want you to get into the mindset of thinking. Oh, my God, if I invite my employee to tell me all the things they don’t like, what if they give me a laundry list of 50 or 60 things and I can’t change any of them, then I just found out that my employee is not happy and I can’t make them happy. Well, here’s the thing. That’s actually a good thing, right? So if you know that the person dislikes some of the core foundational pieces of your law firm, then you’re already starting to see that they’re a misfit.


Allison Williams: [00:07:28] Now, that does not mean that you immediately fire the person and say thank you for your service, you’re not a fit here, have a nice life. Right. The goal is not to use the review to eliminate employees, but you want to be issue spotting because if the person does not connect with the core of your business, if you are a very collaborative law firm, there’s a very, very complex cases and you have seven or eight people working different phases of the case. Or you have very, very small cases. Maybe you have, maybe you’re handling traffic tickets or kind of like the one and done contract review cases. And those are the cases that really are the bread and butter of the firm and what you want to grow. And if a person doesn’t like that work and they want something else, that might be a sign that there’s an opportunity for you to grow your business by seeing what they really enjoy or what they really don’t enjoy. Or it might be a sign that this is a, this is a mainstay of this law firm, and if you don’t like that, you know, you’re not going to do well here.


Allison Williams: [00:08:33] All right, third area is that you want to ask the employee where they feel that they are exceptional, average, and need improvement. Now, this is what most people think of when they think of an annual review. Right? They think of that, what am I doing good, like on a scale from one to five or one to 10 or what have you, right. Where am I knocking it out of the park? Where am I just OK and where do I need to improve? But the reason why you want to characterize it this way, you want to give those three categories and you want to have the employee identify where they fall within those categories is you want to have the person actually stop and critique themselves and this gives you a lot of information on how to coach and develop your employees. So, for instance, you could very easily have a paralegal who feels that he or she is really exceptional at something and you say mmm they’re OK, but they could get better. Right, so there’s a disconnect there and that person may not be seeing areas for improving their behavior. They may not have had it brought to their attention before because you may say it’s adequate, even though I know it could get better. So this is an area where you can develop them. On the flip side, you may have some employees that are very hard on themselves, so they may rate themselves as being absolutely awful at something, right. They could be in the needs improvement category and you think that they are on the high end of average, maybe even approaching exceptional.


Allison Williams: [00:09:59] And it could be that they are catastrophizing small problems or they are really, really concerned about something that’s a relatively small issue. So maybe it’s that the person doesn’t feel that they can manage all of the communications, maybe you have a lot of phone calls and emails coming in all day and the person feels that they are in need of improvement in getting to everyone. You may think we’re in a growth spurt right now, right, so I think you get to everyone as best you can and that’s, that’s all that we can expect in this moment because we’re growing and until we hire the next person, there’s more on your plate than could reasonably be expected to get through in one day, right, so a lot of this also gives you time to stop, pause and set realistic expectations for a role which tends to increase someone’s level of satisfaction. Right, so if you’re finding that an employee is rating themselves overall very negatively when you don’t, that’s a sign that you need to do a better job of communicating your level of satisfaction about your employee. And some of that can actually be done just through putting little reminders on the calendar, Right? Keep it to yourself, I don’t share the calendar, but you can put little reminders that, you know hey, I need to offer some praise today, right. Once a, once a week, once every other week, look for opportunities to stop, pause and praise. Right. So if you see that there’s a disconnect in how a person assesses themselves, there’s a, there’s a need, not just an opportunity, but really a need for you to do a lot better job of communicating how you perceive their conduct so that they can align the areas where they improve with the goals that you have for improving their performance overall and ultimately getting you both to happy.


Allison Williams: [00:11:46] OK, question number four career objectives. How do you feel that the law firm either helps or hinders your career objectives? Now, this is a biggie because a lot of people, when they answer this question, they will say, oh, well, I want to be America’s next top senior litigator and the law firm allows me to litigate. So, therefore, my career objectives are satisfied. But that would actually be missing the boat if you’ve got that kind of an answer. So what you’re looking for in the career objectives question, if you’re looking for someone to share with you, what are some of those major goals that they have for their career? Do they want to achieve certification in a discipline? Do they want to change the practice area that they are at? Do they want to grow a book of business? Do they want to have a professional profile that includes media appearances? What is it that they want their career to look like? And when, when you ask them specifically, how is the firm helping you or hindering you? A lot of times the employee is not going to want to say, well, the firm stops me from, from getting what I want.


Allison Williams: [00:12:53] So you want to asking that question, give some examples of ways that the firm may be hindering the person’s ultimate goal in ways that can be resolved. So, for instance, if you have an employee who has a desire of becoming a judge, they may or may not want to share that with you because they might not want you to say, OK, well, I’m not going to invest in this person. They’re going to leave and become a judge. But maybe it’s a prestigious thing for your law firm to actually have a judge who was a former employee of your firm. So instead of leaving that to chance, you might actually say, OK, so if you desire to be a judge, how can the firm actually give you opportunities to get into certain public spaces where you’re going to increase the likelihood of getting there. So that’s a win-win right? That increasing of your exposure can get us business. So that helps the firm, but it also can get you closer to becoming a judge, which helps you, right? So you’re looking for that win-win in those career objectives. Another example might be that someone, and I had this actually happen a few years ago where one of my attorneys that, you know. You have such a big profile that if somebody has a case and they ultimately want to refer the case to the law firm, they’re going to refer it to you. They’re not going to refer it to me. 


Allison Williams: [00:14:13] And I had to disabuse that person of that belief and I said you know listen if somebody is referring to the law firm, sometimes they’re referring specifically because they think of me. Sometimes they’re referring because we have created a brand, but if you are generating a case for yourself, that person is going to have a relationship with you and so we have other attorneys in the office, that have their own business, and they were able to grow that book of business by virtue of being associated with us here at this firm but they really created that one-to-one relationship with whoever referred the case. And so when that person started to see possibility for themselves, that extended beyond their assumptions that I’m a small fish in this big pond. I’m never going to be able to grow beyond whatever the firm gives me. They were able to get really excited about the fact that, wow, OK, if someone saw my colleague down the hall was able to advance in his interests by virtue of being associated here, I can do it too. Right? So that’s a situation where someone’s career objective, they perceived it was hindered by their being at the law firm, but you could actually turn it into a way that it can be assisted and that there is actually a pathway for that.


Allison Williams: [00:15:28] So it really is about opening up the dialog. OK, if this is what you want for your career, there are ways that I can help you and that person again then gets to happy because they have the win-win of enjoying today, but also seeing the possibility for tomorrow.


Allison Williams: [00:15:43] OK, next question, the fifth question that you want to ask in the annual review is how would you like your position to change or stay the same? Now, I’ve asked this question before and I’ve gotten kind of a blank stare like this is kind of the way it sounds like a catch-all, but it really isn’t. Right? So the first thing is that how would you like your position to change? Well, this could be anything from I want more work, I want less work, I want weekends off, I want, I want to not work on Friday, I want to shift into a different departments, I want to start taking on a certain type of case, I want to have more, more of a say in certain types of experiences, I want to try cases where I’m not doing that now, could be any number of things. Right. But there could also be things that they very much do not enjoy that now is an opportunity for you to really pick through. OK, so if you think about anything from interpersonal relations, you know. Do They get along with their staff?


Allison Williams: [00:16:44] Are they on the same page? Do they feel that their assigned team member is actually an extension of their desk or is there friction in that relationship? It could be, they want their position to change because they want to advance, right. They want to step it to the next level and they’re not really sure how to do that and now’s the time to stop, pause, and actually have the conversation about what ascending in your career might look like in terms of what the responsibilities are as well as the rights, right? How is your compensation going to change? How is, how is your freedom going to change? Are you going to get more time off? Are you going to get more of a say in certain types of matters in the firm? Like what does that look like for you? And then the part of it about staying the same is an interesting piece because a lot of people would say, if I don’t want it to change, then presumably I want to say the same. Right? And the answer is not exactly. So when you ask a person, how would you like your position to stay the same, this is really those deal breakers, like what are the things that a person would get from happy to unhappy if certain things were to change? And I’ll give you an example, at one point in time, we were in a rapid growth mode here in my law firm, and we had gone through probably four or five different administrative professionals.


Allison Williams: [00:17:58] They would come in, they would have personality conflicts, we weren’t really doing a very good job at that point of hiring for fit. We were hiring much more for aptitude, so we know that the three drivers of employments performance, what you should be evaluating is aptitude, attitude, and fit. And so we would get people with a decent attitude, but they just weren’t fit for the culture. Right? They didn’t, they didn’t like the way that we do business or they didn’t like having the level of freedom that they had in terms of responsibilities for getting work than they wanted to be and we’re used to being more interdependent with their team member. So a lot of little things were showing up, and at one point we had maybe three paralegals in the course of the year turnover. And so in that scenario, one of my lawyers had had all of the paralegals and he was finally at a place where we, we had we had hired someone who is exceptional, they’re still with us today. And that person ended up working with this attorney and the attorneys says I would really hate it if I lost this paralegal. And part of that was just kind of the war shed of working with person after person after person. But part of it also was that the person that he was now working with was just a super fit.


Allison Williams: [00:19:10] They had the same type of personality in all the areas where he was weak, she was strong. In all of the areas where he was strong, she was growing and learning. They had a friendship and a camaraderie that just naturally developed from the role, and there was now a stake there. So it’s really challenging even when you have a lot of people following a unified system, right? Because here at Law Firm Mentor, we’re really big on creating systems and consistency of systems in law firms. There is still an individuality to human beings, right. So unless you are having robots execute your systems, there’s always going to be some variation, right? There’s always going to be a human touch to the system and so this person that I would really not want my, my administrative assistant, to change. And that was one of those. Yeah, he marked her keep it the same under all scenarios, unless there is an absolute reason why this has to change, this is a priority to keep it the same in the law firm. Right? Not necessarily something that you would be aware of because if the person wasn’t complaining about it, they were just going with the flow, you would think, oh, not that big of a deal, this person kind of works with anyone if it’s not an issue. But then when you stop and pause and ask the question, you find that some issues really do exist.


Allison Williams: [00:20:28] OK, item number six on the review, goals for next year. Now, here, you want to be very specific, OK? You want the employee to tell you what is it that they want to do? What is it that they want to have in their mind’s eye for next year? And part of this is getting them to dream out loud, right? You want them to be driving forward in their career, you don’t want people to be stagnating, and even if you have what I would consider to be more of a constancy, stable type of personality, right? There are some people that are going to set the world on fire, some people not so much, right, they’re here to really do the job, collect the paycheck and go home. And by the way, that is not inherently a bad thing, right? We need to have those shooting stars that are going to come in, be hard-driving, push the business forward, go out pounding the pavement and we need those people who are going to be those bedrocks, those tried and true, stable and tested that come in, they’re always dependable, they’re always reliable, they’re here that keep your clients happy, they collect their bills, they’re doing the work right? So you’re going to have a mix of that in most law firms, right? Most law firms have some variation in that and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on what you want, the business owner is often that shooting star, and then they will often bring in people who don’t necessarily fit into that because, you know, if everyone is a shooting star, then you’re going to have a whole lot of ego debates on an, on an ongoing basis versus if everyone is that tried and true stable, you’re going to have consistency and stability, but you’re not going to be growing at any level of rapid rate because there’s no one really pushing that agenda, you know. So you have to have a mix and you’re most likely going to naturally create that, but the end to your game could be someone who says, I want to step ahead next year, and maybe their step ahead is they want to do something major like they want to argue in the Supreme Court or their step ahead may be something minor. It might be something like you know, I want to try this type of case next year that I haven’t before or I want to generate my first client next year or I want to handle cases on my own next year. If they’re a younger or less experienced attorney, they could be stepping into some autonomy. Right? But you want to have people have goals and then you want to teach them the process of having that conversation with them, of where do you want to be at the end of the year and what do we need to do quarter over quarter to get you there.


Allison Williams: [00:23:01] So, part of that is them taking personal responsibility. Part of it is actually asking for what they want in their career and opening up the door for them to build a career that they desire because what you’ll find is that loyal employees are built from getting their needs met. So if a person has a desire for something and you are assisting them along the way of getting there, they’re much more likely to stay longer than if they were simply a cog in the wheel. They also are going to have a degree of loyalty when things are going wrong, so that means when your, your tried and true office administrator walks in and resigns on a moment’s notice because of an interpersonal conflict, or when you have a major catastrophe with a client, the client gets upset, the client files a lawsuit, and that takes up all of your time and your energy and your resources defending that when you are stressed and overwhelmed, that person is going to be here, your loyal, tried and true because they’re going to remember that you invested in them. Right. So part of the idea here is that you want to invest in people, not necessarily with dollars and cents, right? We know that people need compensation to be in satisfaction, to be satisfied that’s one of the major killers, but you also want to get a person to a place where they see themselves being promoted, being advanced, being cheerlead into success in the future. But a lot of that is going to come from them, they just need to learn that skill.


Allison Williams: [00:24:33] So goal setting is a really critical skill for you as a leader to teach your people and having those conversations at minimum at the annual review, it’s a great way to start to imbue them with that expectation.


Allison Williams: [00:24:47] OK, number seven, OK, why would you choose to work here? OK, now this means I want you to think about this as a new hiring opportunity, right? The same way that you would ask someone who is applying to work at your law office, why do you want to work here? Right? And this would be an opportunity for the person to say these are the things that are my, my superior drivers of happiness in my professional world, you get to hear that. And there’s a value to hearing that, that is not simply ego stroke. The value to hearing it is to know what matters most to the person. So if the person is really oriented toward people and they love the team that they work with, then you would know that if your team starts to turn over, you have risk inherent with that particular employee. Or it could be that the person says, you know, I’m paid really well relative to the marketplace. And if that’s one of the things that they lead with and you know that financial compensation is something that is a driver of behavior proven.


Allison Williams: [00:25:50] And by the way, I’ve said it before in the podcast, do not assume that everyone who happens to have a high income is a money-motivated person. Many people build from a place of status or a place of personal goals or a place of satisfaction in creation that has nothing to do with how much they are earning, even though they see what they’re earning as a marker of success in the thing that they’re building. So you have to be careful that you don’t just throw dollars and cents at people because you assume that that’s what motivates them because that’s not always the case. But when that person tells you why they would choose your law firm, you know what matters to them?


Allison Williams: [00:26:28] Now, number eight is the flipside of that, why would we choose you? What is it about you that would make me want to hire you versus hiring someone else? Now, this is not designed to trigger the person to think, oh, my God, am I really at risk of losing my job? Because presumably, if you’re having an annual review, your goal is to have that person continue in employment, you don’t want to replace them. But why should I choose you? Why should the firm choose you? Is an opportunity for that person to highlight what they think is most valuable to them. And again, this is a very subtle psychological cue, right? We all speak from a place of the I not from a place of the we. Ok? Instinctually, we are always going to lead with what matters most to us. Primacy and recency, right. We’re going to start with what matters for us and we’re going to end with what matters for us. We may couch that in terms of what matters to the law firm, but we’re going to be thinking about it from the place of what is it about me that I think is special, that I think is valuable, that I think really matters. And what you’ll find here is that there are some people that just completely missed the boat on what matters in your law firm, right? So if the person is great with your clients, but they just can’t seem to ever meet their productivity goals. So they’re an exceptional lawyer, clients love them, clients continue to come back so they don’t have a problem with client retention, they don’t have a problem with generating new work off of clients. They may even be getting referrals from clients. But if that person can’t meet their productivity goals, they are costing you money, right? So while they may be saying I am great with clients, that’s one of the things that I highly prioritize and they may think that you highly prioritize it too and of course, I don’t know any lawyer that doesn’t want happy clients, but maybe it’s not as important to you as they think it is.


Allison Williams: [00:28:17] So, again, another opportunity now. This is kind of winding down here, we have nine questions, we’re on number eight. So at this point, typically you are just reaffirming that the person’s value system is in alignment with what your law firm has as a value system. And if it isn’t, that may be a conversation, for now, to shift and change or that may be a conversation for later. But you need to have that information and you need to be keenly aware when a person stops and speaks to you about what matters to them, how they perceive their value in your law firm because if there is a disconnect, you’re not going to have an easy time optimizing their performance and you’re not going to have an easy time with getting them to do the things that matter most to you, so that there is that win-win because remember, the goal of your employee, employee relationship is to be at a win-win, you want them to be happy working with you and you want to be happy working with them and if both of you are not satisfied, there is risk in that relationship. So if you are looking at that person saying ah, they’re OK, they get the job done but I would really love it if they could do such and such and you haven’t communicated that to them, you’re depriving them of an opportunity to be their best selves.


Allison Williams: [00:29:29] And on the flip side, if the employee does not stop and use this as an opportunity to say yeah, what I really want is X, Y, and Z, and that person doesn’t speak to you and say, I’m really desiring this, I’m really desiring this change here, you’re going to miss an opportunity there as well. Now, the reality is you’re not always going to have employees that are candid with you, and sometimes you can pick up on that, right? Sometimes you’re sitting across from an employee and you’re saying, yeah, I love everything about my job, there’s nothing I dislike, I think that I do everything above average and I’m always working to be exceptional and you get kind of plasticity in review. Now, of course, keep in mind, some people give you that because they have had their own series of traumas with being evaluated. They were judged harshly as a child or even in prior work experiences and as a result, they just don’t want to say anything that’s going to draw attention to them or could put them in a situation where you could do them less favorably than you already do. So you have to be sensitive to the fact that if you are not getting the level of feedback that you desire in these questions, not to take it personally, but to continue to insist upon the proven, OK? It is really important that you require people to go through the process of self-reflection so that you can hear from them, what is it that is going to keep them happy and keep them moving forward because if not, there is risk in the relationship.


Allison Williams: [00:31:00] OK, number nine, nine is the, my personal favorite, the catch-up, right? Is there anything else, anything we haven’t discussed so far? Now, if you’ve done this review appropriately, what you’re going to be doing with each of these questions is you’re going to be taking notes and you’re going to be asking follow-up questions, right? This is an expansion conversation. So when you have this expansion conversation, you’re going to get more and more detail from your employee and you should be seeing them be excited about all the different ways that you are ultimately going to advance them in their career, in their business and working for your business. And that is that should be an experience of happy for them. OK, if you don’t get to an experience of happy for your employees in this assessment, Right? If there’s a lot of things that need improvement, if the person is really hard on themselves, if they don’t have goals and dreams or they haven’t allowed themselves to create goals and dreams, your goal as a leader is to really facilitate them getting to a place of goals and dreams, right? You want them to be at a place of thinking about things that they can achieve in the future because your law firm is the place for them to do that.


Allison Williams: [00:32:11] And to the extent that they don’t feel comfortable vocalizing that because maybe they have goals and dreams that they think are completely counter to what you have, right? You are a criminal defense law firm, you always intend to be a criminal defense law firm and they’ve said, I really want to do trust and estates law and you’re like, there’s no way I’m bringing that practice area into my law firm. I don’t want you to think about that as a loss, like, oh my God. I just found out that my employees are not happy. They don’t want to do what we’re practicing here. I’m going to lose this person even though this person is good at what they do. Because the reality is, if someone is not satisfied in the work that they do, they’re a risk. They’re a risk to the quality that they will bring to your law firm. They’re a risk to the clients that they will serve. They’re a risk to you and that’s the last thing that you want, right? You want to free that person, not fire that person. Ok,  hear me very carefully, you’ve got a good employee who’s not satisfied, ushering them over to another great law firm where they can be satisfied while you are also looking for your next best rock star, who’s going to love the work that you do, that’s definitely something that you can achieve without there being a tumultuous end to a relationship.


Allison Williams: [00:33:18] But just knowing that is very powerful. And sometimes that anything else, question number nine-category allows the person to say something they either didn’t say earlier in the conversation as they were getting used to this type of intimacy in conversation, or it could be something that they completely forgot.


Allison Williams: [00:33:37] OK, so I want you to now think about these nine questions that we’ve talked about in terms of facilitating your annual review and I want you to think about how this relates to a sales conversation because remember, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time, we’ve talked about the fact that when you are selling, you are not convincing someone to want what you want or to desire what you desire. You’re ultimately peeling away the layers of what’s already within them so that they can make the decision that’s best for them. So, if you think about it, the sales conversation asks in a nutshell, what do you want? Why do you feel you don’t have it? What’s going to happen if you don’t do something about this problem now? Are you willing to address this problem now? If you started down the road of addressing it, what would ultimately stop you? And if I gave you a specific solution to a specific problem, would that solve your problem. Would that get you to the place of happy? To get you to the thing that you want.


Allison Williams: [00:34:41] So I want you to think about the questions that we’ve talked about right? We’ve asked the person, what do you like and dislike? Right. We’ve asked them about their career objectives, we asked them about how they’d like their position to stay the same and would change, right? That’s what do you want? Why do you feel you don’t have it is implied when you start talking about goal setting. Right. What are the goals that are going to move you to that place to satisfaction? You don’t have it because you haven’t set the goals to achieve that work. Or another way of looking at it is when you ask how has the firm hindered your ability to ultimately achieve that goal? There could be something there that tells them, that tells you why the person feels they don’t have that. What’s going to happen if you don’t address the problem right, that’s ultimately implied by virtue of lack of satisfaction? Right? But the person is going to tell you these are the things I would really be unhappy about if they changed in my work environment and here are the things that I really, really want to keep in my work environment, but when you start talking about what’s going to happen if you don’t address the problem, that’s really an internal piece and some of that you can get from probing.


Allison Williams: [00:35:50] So when you ask the person, you know, what are the things that you don’t like about your job, and they tell you, you know, you may want to ask them directly what happens if we don’t change these things? What does that do for you? How on a scale from one to 10, what’s your level of dissatisfaction with that? Are you willing to address it right? This is really where you get into the goal-setting when the person tells you, you know, I really want to do X, Y, and Z and you reverse engineer, right? You set a goal for a year out and then you reverse engineer what has to happen between now and then in order to get them there. That really is a key component of their taking personal responsibility for how they’re going to achieve their goal but the willingness has to be there, right? So that the person sets a very, very small goal. Maybe they’re not that willing to achieve goals in their career. And that may be OK, again, if they’re that tried and true that sturdy, capable, dependable, reliable employees, and they don’t want to set the world on fire. That’s OK. Right. You want them to be moving forward, but you want them to be moving forward in a way that’s going to keep them happy. If you’re happy with them and they’re happy with you, there’s no issue. Then what would stop you? OK, we talked a little bit about things in the firm that could be hindering their level of satisfaction. Areas where they need improvement that you may or may not currently offer coaching or training.


Allison Williams: [00:37:10] So these are some of the things that ultimately could stop them but ultimately, you want this to be a personal responsibility type of response. And then finally, if I gave you a specific solution to a specific problem, would we get what you want? Right? So if you think about that, that’s one of the things that you as a law firm are willing to do in order to get that person to a place of happy for themselves so that they are happy with your law firm. And that ultimately is the key of client retention or employee retention, right, you want them to vocalize for themselves what they desire and to the extent that you can meet those desires head on, you’re going to have happier employees.


Allison Williams: [00:37:50] All right, everyone, I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. This episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast has been dedicated to pivoting the annual review and for those of you that don’t yet see how this annual review really is a sales process, I want to invite you to download one of the assets that we’ve created, which is a five video training series called Getting Prospects To Yes. So you can access that at LawFirmMentor.net/getting-prospects-to-yes. We’re going to include that link in the show notes for this week. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor everyone, have a great day!


Allison Williams: [00:38:42] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice, or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement Free Facebook group. There you can access our free trainings on improving collections and law firms, meeting billable hours and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firms and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day!

Allison Bio:

Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law. 

Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.  In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.

In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers.  She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.  Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms. 


Contact Info:

Contact Law Firm Mentor:

Scheduler: https://meetme.so/LawFirmMentor  



32:32 (26 sec)

I don’t want you to think about that as a loss, like, oh my God. I just found out that my employees are not happy. They don’t want to do what we’re practicing here. I’m going to lose this person even though this person is good at what they do. Because the reality is, if someone is not satisfied in the work that they do, they’re a risk. They’re a risk to the quality that they will bring to your law firm. They’re a risk to the clients that they will serve. They’re a risk to you. And that’s the last thing that you want, right? You want to free that person, not fire that person.