To find out what clients think about individual performers in a department, a general counsel might make it a practice to inquire. Not just to crudely ask “who is good?,” but to ask a series of senior executives exactly the same question: “Who do you think are the two or three strongest performers in the department and why?” If this canvassing covers a representative collection of clients, the general counsel will gain two insights: which lawyers are deemed strongest and by inference which are relatively weak performers.
On top of those two insights general counsel will obtain some indication of client satisfaction. What the clients say they value in the strong-performing lawyers undoubtedly applies to what they would like to obtain from all the rest of the lawyers.
A variation in larger departments is to ask the heads of practice groups to go out and do the same with their clients. A fruitful discussion should follow where the senior lawyers report back and the general counsel mingles in his or her own observations (See my post of Nov. 25, 2006 about InBev and its program.).