A strengthened performance management system at H-P

A former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner, Michael Holston, now the General Counsel of Hewlett-Packard, says he has had one goal for HP’s legal department: to make it the “best legal and government affairs department in the world.” Zusha Elinson wrote this in a story for The Recorder, dated May 8, 2009.

“If you’re going to be the best legal and government affairs department in the world, then you’re going to have to hold people accountable,” he said in the article. “And reward people who are doing it.” Toward that end and soon after he arrived, Holston instituted a comprehensive review of every lawyer. He has continued the practice twice a year, and later this month he’ll once again gather his deputies for two full days of evaluating the “between 300 and 400” HP lawyers. The result? HP lawyers whose skills don’t match the current needs of the department, or whose performance is under par, are “encouraged to leave.”

“In HP’s intellectual property department, for instance, of about 70 U.S. lawyers who were there when Holston came on in 2007, only about a third are left, according to an informal survey. Some took an early retirement package in 2007; others were cut subsequently, during one of the rounds of company layoffs, pushed out, or left on their own” (See my post of Dec. 20, 2005: a general counsel sues for severance payments; Jan. 27, 2006: a law department includes severance costs in its budget; and May 4, 2009 #3: BEA severance packages.).

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