The subject title is of course presumptious that lawyers do enjoy 360 degree feedback. After working with 360 feedback for so many years and working with so many law firms I can confidently say that lawyers enjoy the debrief session from 360 degree feedback. It may be something to do with the way we handle that session and the way we go about 360 feedback here but I think some of it is the type of person a lawyer tends to be. So, here goes with the genuine, but slightly light hearted, reasons why…
They are self-motivated learners
Most lawyers – certainly senior lawyers – are inquisitive and self-motivated. They want to improve and while 360 feedback may be a bit more touchy-feely than learning law they generally have a desire to learn and improve which makes them great candidates for 360 feedback.
They like talking about themselves
Culturally – particularly in the UK – this can be seen as a negative. For 360 feedback it is actually useful. Listening to feedback about yourself, discussing that feedback with an impartial 3rd party and reflecting on yourself is somewhat egocentric and at times narcissistic. For the 60-90 minutes of a debrief session it is very useful if the subject of the session enjoys talking about and reflecting on their own actions and ways of working. In our experience, lawyers are good at that.
They recognise their own value and impact
This can of course be taken too far (and sometimes is). But, partners and senior lawyers generally accept that their own impact is significant and improvements will deliver bottom line benefits. Through an experience of valuing (charging for) their own time this can be second nature. This motivates them to listen and to look to make changes.
Their failings are more obvious to others than themselves
The most common issues we see for lawyers revolve around allocation of their time, effective delegation, new business activity and handling of stress. There are of course others. But for these common issues others are best placed to 1) describe the impact of the undesired behaviour and 2) give permission/confidence for the change required. Many lawyers have built a way of working and handling the pressures of the role over many years and have a belief system rooted in that way of working. Believing that a real change can be made requires others to both point it out and give confidence that the changes can be made. To receive this feedback – and particularly the permission to change from those they trust – is often a great break through for the lawyer.
Law firms like to do things properly
Our law firm clients genuinely wish to handle 360 feedback properly. And so they take care to think through what is going to lead to the best conversation for each lawyer. They are able to invest in the process and each lawyer to give the greatest chance of success. Each lawyer then benefits from being part of a well thought through, properly run process.
Debriefing articulate, often confident, intelligent individuals is equally challenging and rewarding. After the initial 5-10 minutes of establishing confidence in the process and ourselves 360 debrief sessions with lawyers are invariably open and enlightening. Whether the executive group, the partners, promotion candidates, or identified high flying associates; all lawyers benefit from 360 feedback and enjoy it when it is handled well.