The Key Performance Equation Part 4: Attorney Case Study

As we wrap up our Performance Equation video series, we want to walk you through a specific case study outlining how you might use the Key Performance Equation to improve a performance at your workplace.

This is a fictional case study, but we think this one might sound familiar and will give you an idea of how to use these concepts in the real world.


Performance EQUALS Potential MINUS Interference.  (Performance = Potential – Interference)

Let’s talk about Amy.  Amy is a senior associate in a medium-sized law firm. The partnership has communicated that it appreciates her legal skills. The partners are being cagey about what it takes to make partner, but it is clear that she needs to show “some rain-making skills.” 

So Amy gets advice from experienced lawyers, like: be a leader in a professional society, be active in the bar, be a volunteer at organizations where potential clients volunteer, give CLEs, or write articles for State Lawyer.

Her highest value clients would be small or medium size businesses dealing with contract disputes or business torts, so she writes an article about those for the local newsprint business journal. She gets a couple inquiries from that. She gives a talk at the Rotary on business torts. She joins a local small business association and assesses how desirable or helpful it would be to work her way into a leadership role. She attends bar events and tries to meet in-house counsel and ask them out for coffee.

But the clients aren’t exactly lining up outside her office. The process seems brutally slow and she wonders if it would pay off.  Do the “experienced lawyers” she talked to actually get their clients this way?

Amy starts to feel like she is spinning her wheels and thinks maybe there is more to this than she realized—so she decides to take a systematic approach to client development using the Key Performance Equation. 

When she sits down and closely analyzes her overall potential in the area of client development, Amy has some real insights: 

  1. Though she is personable, a fairly good communicator, and has a history of good client relations, Amy does not actually know what specific non-legal skills are needed to “sell” her very good technical legal skills. She suspects they are not skills she learned in law school.
  2. Amy is confident in her legal ability, likes people, and shows high initiative and responsibility. . . AND she is self-aware enough to know that she does not make a strong impression with others and feels uncomfortable “tooting her own horn.”
  3. Amy can guess what clients might be looking for but doesn’t really understand the process a potential client would go through to choose a lawyer or what it would take to create an ongoing client funnel.  Also, the firm’s own expectations and processes are pretty unclear to her.
  4. Amy has noticed that other attorneys in the firm have a feast or famine outlook.  They are too busy or not busy enough. She wants to have a steadier flow of clients so she can be as efficient, effective, and strategic as possible.
  5. Amy is concerned about adding this major time investment to already full weeks and doesn’t really know how much time to allot to this performance area.

On top of this, when Amy targets her possible points of interference, she has to admit to the following:

  1. When she thinks about having to find new clients, she feels dread, discouragement, and a lack of motivation.
  2. While she is usually very engaged and focused in her work, this new element creates mental confusion and distraction
  3. She is starting to get frustrated and isolated, and beginning to doubt her ability to take this next career step

Obviously, Amy can’t address all of these performance factors immediately, but once she sees what is influencing her, she does feel like she has a better idea about where to begin.  She identifies two initial goals to jumpstart her performance:  First, to determine what specific expertise is needed to successfully learn client development.  Second, to connect with others in her same position for support, encouragement, and mutual benefit.

She creates an action step for each goal.  In the next two weeks, she will reach out to two colleagues also currently focused on client development for support and to share information resources.  She will also spend 90 minutes researching what business, marketing and sales skill sets are most basic.

She commits to assessing in 2 weeks what she has learned and what her next steps should be.

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