Performance improvement plans for law firmsLaw firms often have employees falling below expectations in a particular area. An employee might do many good things for the law firm and the clients. But there could be an area where they are significantly deficient.

The possibilities are endless. However, the law firm might not like the employee’s work product on cases or administrative matters. It could be a productivity issue where the employee is not making billable hour requirements, not seeking collection on cases, tardiness, attendance, or a number of other problems.

In some instances, the law firm may have talked to the employee about it in the past. Often, it starts with a more casual conversation. But perhaps that is not helping the situation. It might even be a situation where the discussion was more formal, and the employee was warned that they must do better. Yet, there was no improvement.

What To Do If The Performance Is Not Improving?

Where the performance is not improving, the law firm has to make a choice. Does the law firm allow the employee to be deficient in the area? Does the law firm fire the employee and move on? Or is there a middle path?

The middle path is a performance improvement plan. With a performance improvement, the law firm formalizes its concerns in writing. In writing, the law firm delineates what the employee is doing or not doing that requires improvement. The law firm also explains that it must improve and why.

In most performance improvement plans, the employee may need to read or watch certain materials to help coach them on how they can become better. It might be that they have to re-read or re-watch onboarding materials.

Performance improvement plans also typically last for a certain length of time. It could be for 30, 60, 90 days, or some other interval. After the period, the law firm meets with the employee again. At that time, the law firm sits back down with the employee to review their performance during this period.

If there is improvement, that is often the end of the performance improvement plan. But if there is no improvement, the law firm might let the employee go, or they can extend the plan, try to coach the employee some more,  and have another future meeting.

Why Can Performance Improvement Plans Help?

Performance improvement plans can help because they often set an excellent middle ground. It ensures that the employee does not continue down a path that is not helpful to the firm and its clients. At the same time, it can often avoid the law firm having to terminate the employee.

In this day and age, where it can be hard to locate and hire good employees, most law firms ought to think long and hard about utilizing performance improvement plans within their law firm. Using performance improvement plans can be particularly helpful with employees who care and want to do well. Performance improvement plans can also reduce turnover in your law firm.

Even where the employee is ultimately terminated, the law firm gives the employee a fair chance if they tried a performance improvement plan first. From a human resource standpoint, giving employees an opportunity and notice is almost always smart.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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