Geoffrey B. Dougherty
Visual Input Systems Analysts, Inc.
1789 Hamilton Drive
P. O. Box 554
Valley Forge, PA 19481
Re: Associate Evaluation Questionnaires
On behalf of the firm's Professional Development Committee, I would like to thank you for all your fine work in helping us design an automated system for processing information from our Associate Evaluation Questionnaires.
As you know, for many years our firm has used a two part Associate Evaluation Questionnaire. The first part of the questionnaire rates the associate's performance in specific categories, based on his or her years out of law school. The professional skills and personal qualities included are designed to assist in analyzing the associate's professional development as a lawyer. We have adopted a rating system which measures the associate's performance compared to that of an average associate of similar seniority. In this way, we can identify specific areas in which an associate's performance is seen as better (or worse) than one would expect, based upon his or her years of practice.
The questionnaire also includes a more subjective rating of partnership potential (on a score of 1 to 5), as well as specific year and no questions on whether the associate should be admitted to partnership, as well as a number of entrepreneurial and administrative qualities.
The second part of the Associate Evaluation Questionnaire asks the partners to provide written comments relating to the associate's performance. For more senior associates, who are eligible for partnership consideration, the reviewing partner is asked to comment on the associate's business development qualities and to explain (in applicable cases) why the associate is being recommended for partner.
As I mentioned earlier, we have used this two-part Associate Evaluation Questionnaire for many years. We believe that asking the partners to give specific ratings to associates in discrete categories achieves two principal objectives. First, it helps the reviewing partner (and the Professional Development Committee) in analyzing the associate's particular strengths and weaknesses systematically. I know from my experience that these categories provide focus to my narrative comments on the associate's performance. The ratings assist in providing a standardized basis for evaluating each associate's performance.
Secondly, the ratings provide a uniform basis of comparison of all associates. This is of vital assistance in comparing associates' professional development, relative to other members of their law school class, as well as to other associates in their practice area. The narrative comments due are valuable in providing a general evaluation of the associate's performance, as well as and in many cases specific examples of where the associate's work was commendable, or where improvement is needed. The detailed ratings portion of the questionnaire, however, enables the Committee to identify particular areas in which the associate's performance can be compared to others. This helps us be specific in the evaluation conference with the associate. It also is an aid in comparing associates to one another for purposes of performance-based increases in compensation.
The ratings portion of the questionnaire also makes possible a comparison of the associate's performance in specific areas from year to year.
After all the questionnaires have been completed, the results of the ratings portion are tabulated to produce a summary consolidated questionnaire for each associate. This shows the number of marks the associate received in each rating for each category. Since the information, with your help, is now automated, we can review the associate the average score in each category, in comparison to the average score for all associates in the same law school class. The class average score in each category is a new feature we added this year, which I have found very helpful in reviewing the evaluation forms. Where there is a fairly large number of associates in a particular law school class, the class average scores provide a statistically meaningful comparison, since individual variances among associates (and reviewing partners) tend to cancel each other out over a larger sample.
We have also found very helpful the bar graphs you prepared for each associate, comparing their ratings in each performance category to their class average for the current year and their average scores in those categories for the previous year. These bar graphs help identify areas where the associate's performance has shown a marked change from one year to the next.
The automation of this information also has helped the Committee in comparing each associate's performance to members of his or her law school class or and other associates in the same department. With your assistance, we have compiled master reports, which compare all of the associates in each law school class, according to each performance category, as well as partnership potential and the other questions on the form. We have also compiled a similar comparison among the associates in each practice area. I have found these comparisons to be very helpful in appraising the associate's standing in his or her department.
Finally, the automation of this information has made it possible for us to obtain the evaluation information on a current and timely basis. When we were compiling this information by hand, the process took several weeks, which reduced our ability to make decisions regarding associate compensation and partnership recommendations on the basis of the information which was fresh and current. With your data processing capabilities, it has become possible for the Committee to circulate the questionnaires, receive and compile the information and present our findings in a little over one month. As a result, both the partners and the associates know that the firm partnership decisions and individual associate evaluation conferences will be based on current information. The improvement in timing is also a benefit in our responsiveness to our associates' needs for feedback and guidance.
Again, I want to extend the Committee's thanks to you and your staff for the excellent work you have done in helping us improve and refine our associate evaluation system. As our population of associates grows (there were almost 120 this year, excluding recent arrivals), we clearly would not be able to maintain the quality of our review process without the services you provide.
Please feel free to share this letter with others. If I can be of any assistance in recommending your services to other firms or in explaining our evaluation system, please do not hesitate to call.
Very truly yours,
William P. Scott
cc: Joseph E. Lundy, Esq.