How To Make Drafting Your Year End Partner Compensation Memo Less Unsavory: Phase V, Final Draft

In the last blog, we talked about the importance of getting feedback from others on your draft memo. Now that you have some additional insights to incorporate, you’re in the home stretch. After weaving in the feedback you have received, we have two final pieces of advice to consider before hitting ’Send’.

First, make sure that you have drilled down and provided as much detail as possible, particularly with respect to prospective business development actions you are committing to. The most frequent feedback we give to partners on the memos we review is that the content can be underwhelming. For example it is not uncommon to see a statement like “Next year I plan to continue to develop the firm’s relationship with Apple” – period, end of story. This commitment lacks real meaning for the firm because it doesn’t say anything about what specifically you plan to do, with whom you plan to do it, by when or how you plan to pull it off. 

A much more compelling commitment could look like: “Next year, I plan to increase our exposure at Apple by leveraging my relationship with John Smith. John has been happy with my work and has indicated he would be willing to introduce me up the chain. As a first step, before the end of the first quarter, I plan to ask John to set up a meeting with his boss, Mary Ross to discuss the work we did on the Johnson case and how we can help them think more strategically about their exposure with respect to X. I would also like to bring Bob Thomas of our IP litigation department to that meeting to explore further possibilities with respect to Y.”

Making sure the firm can see the concrete steps you plan to take with your commitments will help to show you are serious about business development. At the end of the day, drilling down to this level of detail may not necessarily help to increase your compensation or make up for a shortfall from the previous year, but it may help you to avoid a reduction by showing that you have a comprehensive strategy to meet your goals moving forward.

Second, make sure your plan is a workable document for you to use throughout the next year. Even though it is an official and administrative task on one level, to be successful at business development it will help to have a detailed plan so why not leverage the work you have already put into this document? When you look at this memo, will it be sufficient to keep you on track with the steps you will need to take to reach your goals? Is there enough detail and specificity?  Have you named names and set numerical targets? Are there due dates and timelines? Have you included resources you will need along the way? Can you see yourself pulling this memo out weekly, monthly, quarterly to review your progress and recalibrate where needed? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is your chance to go back in and make it work for you.

After giving it one last review for typos, you can submit your memo confident in its comprehensiveness and its capacity to serve you as a strategic business development tool over the next year. And, a more fulsome memo can help to ensure it will be easier to draft this time next year.


This is the fifth and final post in a series of five blogs on law firm partner compensation memos.