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A common reason for the withering of KM and firm evaluations — trepidation

Part of Pfizer’s arrangements with its Alliance firms are evaluations of those firms. According to the ACC Docket, July/Aug. 2011 at 80, Pfizer lawyers are supposed to go online to complete evaluation forms, which include an opportunity to write in comments.

In my experience, evaluations by in-house lawyers of their firms often fall flat. Either the lawyers simply don’t do them or they do them half-heartedly: no specifics, no recommendations, no value. Probably they believe they vote with their feet – if they didn’t think well of the services of the firm, aside from situations where a particular firm is foisted on them, they walk away and stop sending the firm work. Written evaluations, they complain, are too rigid, too late, too time consuming, and too sensitive.

On another level, it could be that the reason both firm evaluations and knowledge management efforts peter out is that lawyers don’t want to have their individual judgments splashed out for all to see (and, more to the point, to criticize). It is safer to hang back, not participate, and avoid personalized scrutiny. Because of the same trepidation, people don’t offer contrarian views or new ideas; they self-protectively mold their answers on employee morale or three-sixty degree assessments; they like the cautious, collective decision-making of teams – fear of standing out pervades.