Here’s Some Feedback for Law Firms – Your Feedback Isn’t Working!

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There – I’ve said it and got it off my chest! Phew – that feels a lot better!

But it won’t make any difference for several reasons , including:

  1. You don’t know me or trust me, so you don’t know I have your best interests to heart.
  2. The feedback is far too vague. There’s nothing specific for you to understand. For example, in what way is the feedback in law firms bad? What specific situations have occurred? What have been the consequences of giving poor or no feedback?
  3. Also, there’s nothing stated about what might be done differently. So behaviours are unlikely to change.

Too often feedback is given for the benefit of the giver – venting their frustrations. Not enough consideration is given to the receiver and what will help them improve.

But another issue relating to feedback we tend to overlook is that feedback should ideally be controlled by the learner. Allow me to explain…

Sheila Heen has studied feedback and written some useful books on the topic. She says too much emphasis is given to training people on how to give feedback when the effort would be better put on training people on how to receive it! After all, without any training we will all choose which bits of feedback we want to hear – what fits with our sense of who we are and what doesn’t.  Lawyers, as high achievers, might also be overly focused on the criticism?

I’m repeatedly being told by associates in law firms that they don’t receive enough feedback. But when I delve deeper I discover that they also don’t ask for any feedback! Surely if we want to get better at something we need feedback from a specialist so we can improve?

So here’s what might be done differently. At the start of a matter, the partner might ask the associate what they would like feedback on throughout the work. It could concern their research, drafting or presentations in meetings. This discussion creates a sort of contract for how they’ll be working together.

Law firms are losing many talented people because they feel under appreciated. They don’t feel their work is valued. I think that’s a terrible waste! Feedback can provide that sense of appreciation.

Feedback should be seen as a gift. Feedback offers a way of potentially seeing into our blind spots. – the bits of ourselves our best friends know and we don’t. It will be harder to improve performance without these insights so let’s get feedbacking!

For more commentary on feedback see:

https://tonyreiss.com/2015/08/01/should-law-firms-eliminate-annual-appraisals/

https://tonyreiss.com/2012/11/30/a-plea-for-lawyers-to-give-more-constructive-feedback/

https://tonyreiss.com/2013/09/10/practice-group-leaders-need-your-feedback/

For a link to Sheila Heen’s TED Talk on feedback see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQNbaKkYk_Q

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