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How to Handle Your Annual Review

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For many of you, annual reviews for 2014 are taking place in upcoming weeks or months. Like so many events in the early years of your practice, your objective should be to take control of the course of your review. Take an active approach. Make an impression. Rather than bracing for impact, treat your review as an opportunity to affirmatively demonstrate to the attorneys in your office that you’re a superstar.

Overview of the Review Process

If you haven’t gone through a review cycle yet, there are a few procedural items to be aware of. Typically, yearly reviews are conducted by an attorney or attorneys in your department or office. Occasionally (for example, if you work in large law firm), your review may be run by a managing partner or partners from the firm’s headquarters. In all instances, the attorneys you’ve worked with throughout the year will fill out detailed evaluations of your performance in advance of the review, and the designated reviewing partners will summarize or recap those reviews and go through them with you. Expect that your strengths and weaknesses will be highlighted, as well as those items your colleagues would like to see you work toward for the upcoming year.

Your Approach to Yearly Reviews

As with any meeting, go in prepared. In this case, go in exceedingly prepared, with notes, questions, and any other aspects of your career that you’d like to discuss.

Positive Comments

Take in positive comments in a humble manner. Learn from the positive comments what’s resonating with the attorneys you work with, and be sure to continue to build on this going forward.

Negative Comments

If you’ve had a specifically negative experience with a more senior attorney and anticipate a negative review, be prepared to explain what happened–but don’t make excuses or speak negatively about the more senior attorney.

If you do receive a negative review, don’t act defensively or get upset. Listen, accept the negative criticism, and ask for suggestions as to how to avoid the same situation from occurring in the future. If you’ve already taken action–for example, if you’ve made a mistake and correct it–explain clearly and succinctly in your review what measures you’ve taken and what you’ve learned from the experience. (As an aside, if you receive a negative review that’s unanticipated or that you feel is unwarranted, make clear that you were not aware of the situation, but you’re thankful for hearing of it and will be sure it doesn’t happen again. Remember, your demeanor in your review can be as important as any of your work that’s being reviewed.)

Your Goals

As a final point, be sure to prepare written goals and an action plan for those goals in advance of your review, and bring those goals with you into your review. It’s important to discuss your goals for the upcoming year with your reviewers and ask for feedback as to how you can ensure that you accomplish your goals. This demonstrates to your reviewers that you’re proactively thinking about your career and development as an attorney, and they’ll be eager to help you achieve your goals.

Want more inside tips on thriving in your legal practice? Buy Desiree’s book, Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice.

This post originally appeared on Houseofmarbury.com.

Photo: Sam Edwards / Getty Images

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