What should a law department discuss with a law firm at the annual retrospective?

It is the unusual law department that meets with the key partners of its main law firms, once a year or so, to talk about how to improve the performance, together, of the department and firm (See my posts of May 24, 2006 about how rare any evaluations at all are; Nov. 1, 2005 and Oct. 22, 2006 to a similar point; and April 14, 2005 on difficulties in assessment.). More law departments ought to do so, because the benefits are clear: more productivity, lower costs, higher quality, less transactional friction (See my posts of Aug. 31, 2005 on the practice at Royal Bank of Canada; and May 17, 2006 at Exelon.).

Here are several topics that the department ought to address:

1. The quality of performance of the individual lawyers who worked on the client’s matters during the year.
2. The value delivered by the law firm on various matters, and why there were differences between similar matters.
3. The capabilities perceived by the department as to the firm’s project management, use of technology, communication skills, knowledge management, and other non-substantive attributes.
4. Service delivery on a set of other attributes (See my post of July 2, 2007 on six attributes to evaluate.).
5. Ideas that the firm has picked up from other law departments that might improve quality or productivity.
6. Changes in the near term that will affect the relationship, on both sides.

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