Upward Review Program



In today's practice environment, firms must think strategically about how to deliver quality legal services in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. Leaders – including partners, counsel and senior associates – have a profound impact on a firm’s overall ability to meet these objectives and produce the highest quality work. Strong supervisory skills lead to more engaged associates and staff, who then deliver superior service, leading to client satisfaction and retention.  

Creating a culture that fosters the highest levels of quality, efficiency, client service and profitability requires supervisors who understand how their management style, behaviors and attitudes affect those they supervise. The way in which they delegate tasks, make decisions and provide feedback can either create efficiencies and empower associates and staff or produce the opposite result.


Firms review their financial data regularly, but often do not regularly review their work environment to assess factors affecting employee performance, despite its direct effect on bottom-line financial results. A firm has to identify what needs to change about the current workplace in order to achieve higher levels of associate satisfaction, which leads to increased productivity and profitability. 

Upward review (360-degree feedback) programs play a critical role in this effort by giving supervising lawyers key information about their strengths, weaknesses and developmental needs. Individuals and the firm can use this feedback to make more informed decisions about the focus of personal development, career development, one-on-one coaching and team or practice group objectives.


  • Gives associates a voice

  • Raises awareness of firm-wide strengths and areas for development

  • Clarifies supervisors' expectations

  • Enables focused developmental planning and training

  • Increases ownership for self-development and learning

  • Fosters action-planning at an individual, team and practice group level

  • Increases familiarity with cultural and strategic organizational change


Having designed and administered law firm upward reviews for more than a decade, we have identified the primary drivers critical to the success of a firm upward feedback program:

1.    Clear objectives and success factors;
2.    Management support;
3.    A communications plan;
4.    A sound survey instrument and customized reports;
5.    Training and support for those giving feedback;
6.    A well-defined process for delivering feedback; and
7.    Support and resources for those receiving feedback.

Careful consideration of these components creates success for your program by allaying many of the concerns reviewers and supervisors may bring to an upward review process, including confidentiality, fear of retaliation and the disappointing outcomes that result from a lack of follow up.


The Volta Upward Review program draws on our unique experience as leaders in the development of law firm upward review programs, as well as survey best practices and executive coaching and change management initiatives. Our approach involves four phases, with each phase designed to address the primary actions associated with each of the critical success factors.  

Our 4C Process™:

Phase 1. Communicate
Phase 2. Customize
Phase 3. Convey
Phase 4. Change
Communicate: define objectives and create a strategic communications plan.

  • Review existing and past processes (if any).

  • Set clear objectives and define the desired outcomes.

  • Create a strategic communications plan.

  • Manage the expectations of all involved.

  • Build buy-in by identifying the connection between participation, survey results and intended follow-up action.

Customize: customize our fully-developed, pre-tested survey instrument and report format to reflect your firm’s standards and culture.

  • Use the Volta survey model – a database of fully-developed questions and reporting functionality designed to measure core supervisory competencies organized by specific performance factors and behaviors – to reduce costs and remove many of the time-consuming steps involved in the administration of the survey process.

  • Choose from our bank of questions to design an upward review program that reflects the expectations of supervisory performance and fits your firm culture.

  • Use our confidential third-party online system to administer and report on the results.

Convey: use our competency-based model to gather and deliver effective and consistent feedback. 

  • Use our report format, categorized into competencies and performance factors, to make it easier to target feedback, even if reports go directly to supervising lawyers instead of being delivered in person.

  • Follow our model and standards to ensure consistency and prevent the negative effects that can flow from poor delivery of upward review results.

  • Bolster your ROI by using our consultants to facilitate the feedback process with resources and training or coaching for those individuals who give and receive feedback.

Change: drive sustainable change with targeted follow up.

  • Ensure that there are visible outcomes.

  • Leverage the benefits of our competency-based approach to target specific areas of focus for individual and firm-wide training.

  • Create real and sustainable change with individual and firm-wide action plans.

  • Use our consultants and coaches to provide services and support to help you derive the most benefits from upward feedback.


Fostering a culture of learning and development is a key element to your firm’s success and long-term viability. Information powers a learning organization: Information about a supervising lawyer’s development, how team members work together and ultimately the firm’s ability to satisfy clients with quality work produced by motivated, efficient teams. 
Our unparalleled program will provide you with the data you need to drive the evolution you want, helping to ensure that your firm remains competitive in today’s climate.

For more information, contact Nicholas Jelfs-Jelf, or download our Upward Review Program deck.