Calibrate CEO Jennifer Johnson is interviewed for a Law.Com series on how actions firms have taken during the pandemic are negatively impacting younger lawyers, the causes and consequences of those actions, and what firms can do to protect their young talent and futures.

If you are building a championship caliber football team and you have a need at wide receiver, chances are that drafting a 6-foot-7-inch, 380-pound player for the spot will find your receiving corps lacking. But that same person who failed at wideout sure sounds like they would make a good offensive lineman. The same principles can apply to assessing legal talent—a lawyer who doesn’t fill an immediate need might be a good fit somewhere else in the firm down the road.

“It’s … important to recognize that associates are humans who are at different life stages,” Jennifer Johnson, CEO of legal consulting firm Calibrate Legal, “Take into account that a one-sized scoring system is not an appropriate way to ensure that you are allowing future owners to flex what they need, when they need it, to become owners.”

Johnson said that some potential owners, those who become partners, come with all sorts of different skill sets, each useful to the firm if utilized properly.

“There are all types of owner profiles—the finders, minders, grinders—a successful business is one where all of those profiles are celebrated,” she said in an email. “A one-size-fits-all review process is not viable nor is a baseline billable requirement—you could have associates who are billing above and beyond the requirement but have exuded no potential as a ‘finder’ profile. Rewards such as bonuses and promotions should be designed to serve as motivators for the behavior you would like to see from your employees.”

Firms recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to grading and promotion could leave some attorneys feeling as though they don’t quite fit the mold at their firm is a good start, but needs to be met with a sense of community in order to foster a sense of belonging.

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