For many associates and new legal professionals, the year-end review is the only time that they will receive feedback on their performance and an inkling of how they are progressing in comparison with their peers. Your year-end review will be a unique opportunity to influence your career at your firm. Make the most of this opportunity.
Educate yourself about the process early.
Some firms are better than others at communicating with associates about how they are evaluated. Early in the year, talk to more senior associates who have been through a few review cycles. They should have useful information and are more likely to give the unvarnished truth about how partners evaluate performance.
Keep a list of your successes as they happen.
You should be maintaining a running list of your accomplishments throughout the year. Some firms have their associates write their own reviews. If yours will be prepared by another attorney, find out who will be reviewing you. Consider sending an email reminding the attorney of the great things you’ve done.
Be ready to address any issues.
If you know that you had a rough patch, you need to be ready to deal with it. Make sure that the facts about what happened are accurate and fairly represent your role. Explain what steps you have taken to make sure that it will not happen again. Explain any extenuating circumstances that affected your performance.
Think about what you want from the firm.
When the firm tells you that you are doing a great job, it is tempting to keep your head down and keep working. Pay attention to where you are headed, or you might end up trapped in a practice niche that you find tedious. This is the time to make your preferences and practice goals known, as tactfully as possible.