Partnerships are relationships like any other, requiring a delicate balance of trust, respect, and consideration on behalf of all parties to function effectively. While it is unreasonable to expect that all partners will agree on all matters, it is essential that everyone is generally satisfied with the overall production and results. So, what do you do when one or more partners aren’t pulling their weight? While it may be tempting to cut ties, in most cases this alternative is either complicated or impossible. A much better solution for everyone is to try some of the following methods to entice more production out of these underperforming partners.

Analyze the Data

Rather than relying solely on the eye test, make sure you are well-informed as to their actual production figures and how they compare to the average and top performers. Spend some time studying the numbers to identify patterns and oddities that may help explain the problem. Maybe they are spending all their time in one sector but making little progress. Or possibly there is one aspect they are notably lacking in, making it easy to pinpoint a situation that can be improved.

Determine the Situation

Make sure you ask the non-productive partner, in a discrete and non-threatening way, what could be causing the problem. Are they having family issues, abusing alcohol or depressed? Many times, these issues are temporary, but they can be long-lasting if not addressed and understood. Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions, without judgment, and offer support and solutions if possible.

Review the Goals

All people respond to goals differently. Some people thrive on ambitious targets that keep them focused and intent. Others could find the same scenario overly daunting and maybe even hopeless. Sometimes the problem is simply that their goals are not clearly outlined, and additional clarity may solve the issue. You should review the stated goals for each partner and examine how their work matches up. You may be able to recognize a trend and adjust their targets to reduce their stress and increase their production.

Assess Time Management

Often the problem isn’t that a partner isn’t working hard enough or putting in enough hours, it may be that they are not focusing on the most productive areas. Making sure they understand how all their tasks should be prioritized can go a long way toward increasing productivity. Help them rank all areas of their job in order of importance to ensure that the least essential tasks are given the least amount of attention. Most law firms have staff available to help the partners. One of the more common time management problems occurs when valuable partners spend too much time attending to tasks that could just as easily be delegated to other staff members.

Customize the Process

Similar to the way people react differently to varying goals, everyone also has a particular type of process that works best for them. While some people thrive with very detailed directions that specify every step of the process, others may find that too restrictive and work better in a more fluid
environment. Recognizing this and being open to making changes can make a noticeable difference.

Pay Attention to the Successes

It is crucial not to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection, focusing only on the negatives and where each partner falls short of the ideal. Presumably, every partner does some things well, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. Ensuring their good work is recognized as well as the areas in which they lack can help provide motivation and keep the situation from becoming overly negative.

Keep Training

Nobody is great at every aspect of their profession, and it is unreasonable to think that education and training should end the day they are made partner. Once you have followed all the previous steps, you should have identified the areas most in need of improvement. As long as it is offered voluntarily and respectfully, providing training or coaching to address these aspects is often the most effective solution.

Partnerships are a continually evolving balancing act that requires flexibility and understanding from all
sides. Learning to effectively handle non-productive partners in a way that helps them improve their performance without creating animosity, is an essential skill for senior partners and firm leadership to

For more information on how you can move your partners to a higher level of productivity, please email me at or call me at 803-831-2420.

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