How To Make Drafting Your Year End Partner Compensation Memo Less Unsavory: Phase II, Data Processing

Now that you have had a chance to collect and marinate on the raw data that will inform your partner compensation memo, it’s time to move onto the data processing phase.

One of our best tips to make this a productive exercise is to set the stage for your success. Try to make it fun.  Or, if you can’t manage that, at least make every effort to remain calm. Why?  Because, this process can be both emotional and stressful. When we are stressed, the creative thinking part of our brain often recedes and our primitive brain comes alive, focusing very narrowly on whatever we perceive to be a threat. Because this is largely an exercise in getting credit for what you have done and can do, this type of limited scope thinking will not be productive. You want to make sure to 1.) include everything there is for you to get credit for and 2.) effectively explain any areas of potential concern. Being able to access the creative thinking part of your brain from a state of calm is a powerful tool. So, close your door, put on some relaxing or energizing music, or take yourself out of the office to your favorite coffee place or wine bar (why not??!!), or schedule some time immediately before you do this to get some exercise and start from a place of rejuvenation.

Once you have set your stage and are ready to jump into to Phase Two, to keep the energy and momentum high here, start with the positives:

  • What were the biggest buckets of hours for you this past year?

  • Did your origination or generation credits increase? If so by how much?

  • When you look back to your memo from last year, where did you meet and overshoot your goals?

  • How successful were you in increasing your attempts at cross-fertilization and cross-selling?

  • How many more referrals did you receive (either internally or externally) this year?

  • Is there a new client or project that you want to call attention to?

  • What were some of the business development highlights of your year?

  • What are you most proud of from a BD perspective?

  • What was the most memorable client development event you participated in?

  • Who is your favorite client to spend time with and why? How can that translate to more time next year?

  • Who is your favorite partner to cross-sell with and why? How can that inform enhanced cross-selling next year? How can that be replicated with other partners? (Suggestion: set up calls or meetings with partners you plan to cross-sell with to brainstorm.)

  • Who is your go to partner to refer work to when you have the opportunity? How can you make sure they are also thinking of you for referrals? (Suggestion: set up calls or meetings with partners you refer work to or who refer work to you on a regular or semi-regular basis to touch base and get their views on the market and market players.)

As important as it is to look back at your plan from last year and whether you met your goals, it’s also important to look at the “X Factor”.  What accomplishments deserve credit that weren’t even in your plan? For example:

  • Did you participate in any unexpected pitches?

  • Did you get involved with any unexpected marketing opportunities?

  • Did prospects who weren’t in your plan or referrals you weren’t expecting appear?

 In addition to looking back and including the “X Factor”, next turn to some “crystal balling” exercises:

  • What obstacles or challenges do you foresee for your clients and prospects in 1 year; 3 years; 5 years—whether pertaining to the industries they support or the specific areas of law you help them with? (Suggestion: if you have enough time before your memo is due, set up calls or meetings with your key clients and prospects—at least the ones that will take up significant real estate in your memo to hear about their goals for next year.)

  • How might those challenges be turned into opportunities for the firm to further assist these clients, prospects and key contacts?

  • What specific activities could you do this year to start bringing these opportunities to life (ex: articles to write; knowledge management to produce; speeches or presentations to give; targeted meetings to deliver a brief presentation and give some free preliminary advice on an up and coming issue you have identified as relevant)?

  • Where might current clients and prospects be in 1 year; 3 years; 5 years? (Suggestion: if you have time, hop on to LinkedIn and go through your contacts to see if any have made moves that could factor into your plan for next year)

  • How might potential moves by clients and prospects create opportunities?

Finally, now that you have looked back and forward through a positive lens focused on opportunity, go back and see if there's anything that's not so positive. Were there things you didn’t accomplish that you had committed to? The key here is to explain objectively why you might not have ticked something off your list, show why it isn’t a problem and then share your plan for moving forward (ex: it is no longer a viable lead; you are taking a new direction; you are adding in additional support from other partners). 

Note, Phase Two is still just a thinking and note taking phase – no drafting yet (unless you want to jump ahead and by all means do so!). Working through the questions above can help you crystallize the content that will go into your memo. It will also likely surface points you may have otherwise forgotten to include. Sit with your notes for a day or two because now that you have opened the creative thinking floodgates, even more ideas will surface.

 Happy data processing!