Improving Partner Participation

A popular and well-attended session at last month’s 2012 Annual Conference was “Best Practices for Improving Partner Participation.”  Many law firms struggle with how to involve more partners in pro bono work.  The PBEye believes that it is critical to attain meaningful participation by partners — it broadens a firm’s pro bono capacity and helps ensure the long-term vitality of pro bono by sending a clear message that pro bono is an important and lasting firm value.

Here are a few helpful hints and best approaches for achieving significant partner involvement and successfully addressing obstacles to partner participation:

  • Perform diagnostics to locate the root of the problem and identify the causes of disappointing partner performance.
  • There may be a mismatch between available opportunities and partner interests.  There are a range of tools you can employ, from conducting partner interest surveys to holding one-on-one meetings.  Research and locate complementary pro bono matters that are tailored to their passions, interests, and existing community service commitments.  Projects should not only be of interest to partners, they should also serve critical legal needs.
  • Incorporate pro bono in any self-evaluation that partners may complete.  Include pro bono in any reports on partner hours, receivables, and realization rates that are circulated.  Contact Law Firm Project Assistant Christine Sutherland for examples of firm policies that encourage partner participation.
  • If it’s in keeping with the firm’s culture, peer pressure and competition can act as motivators.  Peer pressure may be enough for individual partners to step up their pro bono efforts.  Others may respond to an office or practice group competition; track, compare, and publicize their pro bono hours and progress.
  • Raise partner visibility by featuring participating partners in a newsletter, e-mail, or on the firm’s website.  Acknowledgement at an awards ceremony and other firm events can also call attention to their pro bono work.

Stay tuned for Improving Partner Participation Part Two next week! You can contact the Law Firm Pro Bono Project for a copy of our handout, which contains several ideas to achieve significant partner involvement and how to successfully address obstacles that may stand in the way.

If your firm has utilized other methods to successfully increase partner participation, feel free to leave us a comment below!