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Forced ranking of lawyers in a department – a highly-problematic practice

Managers of effective corporate legal groups take time to evaluate their lawyers.  To some degree, inevitably, evaluations compare the performance of a particular lawyer to the performances of that lawyer’s peers.  What’s unusual, however, is to explicitly rank all the lawyers against each other.  (An article in 28 Legal Times 31 explains variations on this practice and the law suits it has caused.)

Forced rankings of in-house lawyers rarely happen because it is a bad idea. It requires that some lawyers be classified as poor performers; it falters or fails in small practice areas – especially if a quota system obtains; it relies on managers being critical rather than building on strengths; it creates divisiveness among managers and lawyers; it hurts morale; and it blurs intangible and incommensurable distinctions between lawyers.

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