Managing outliers: How to deal with both stars and underperforming partners


How a law firm handles and manages its outliers — both its stars and high performers at one end of the bell curve, and underperformers at the other end of the performance spectrum — becomes a key feature that helps to define firms both in terms of sound management practices and in terms of a culture of discipline (or anarchy).


We all know instances of star partners being treated as prima donna characters for whom special rules are applied and kid gloves donned to avoid the risk of defection. At the same time, we also know of serial underperformers being allowed to continue in partnership through continued reluctance to confront difficulties. There are also extreme examples of partners in difficulties being summarily ejected without much opportunity to rehabilitate.


We also know — almost without being told — that in the ideal firm, partners would be treated even-handedly, supported caringly, and managed rigorously (but not ruthlessly). My report seeks to get the bottom of how to achieve these worthy ends.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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