The Power of Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is incredibly enriching and something everyone should engage in. Taking the steps to have a positive feedback experience may seem daunting, but we’re here to help.

Two attorneys having a feedback session.

Let’s be honest; giving and receiving feedback is not always a fun experience. Many people are cautious about it–they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or feel the advice would be unwanted. However, those concerns shouldn’t dissuade you from giving feedback.

Everyone should give and receive feedback as often as possible, especially in the legal profession. It’s an enriching experience, and the more you engage in it, the easier it becomes.

Taking the steps to have a positive feedback experience may seem daunting, but we’re here to help.

Importance of Receiving Feedback

Perfection can never truly be achieved, and that’s a good thing. Continually growing and improving enriches your life and enhances your career, but sometimes it’s difficult to identify where to improve. That’s where feedback comes in.

Feedback from trusted sources provides invaluable insight into your performance. An outside view helps you recognize and understand mistakes. They also highlight and reinforce the areas you excel in. Knowing what works and what doesn’t helps to accelerate the learning process and allows you to improve much faster.

How to Receive Feedback

You can’t always curate who will give you feedback, but having a strong community of colleagues you trust can help ensure that the majority of advice you receive will be beneficial. In addition, if you’re able to put together a diverse group, you can get better feedback due to different views. Build your community from local friends and colleagues, and use trusted online communities, like legal associations or Metwork, to grow your network outside of your area.

Just because you have a strong community doesn’t always mean you’ll receive feedback. Not everyone is keen on offering feedback, especially if they’ve never given it to you. Feel free to contact colleagues you’ve recently worked with and ask them for their thoughts. It can be as simple as, “If you have some time, I’d appreciate your opinion on my closing.” People want to help; sometimes, they just need your permission.

Once you have a good feedback group, go into the experience with an open mind. If you're closed off or standoffish, no one will walk away from the feedback feeling optimistic. Instead, leave your ego at the door and embrace that your colleague is offering help. You will almost always learn something new.

This next piece of advice is sometimes the hardest; truly hear and understand the feedback. Think about the details beyond the words, including the background of the person giving them and why they share this information. After listening and thinking, ask follow-up questions to ensure you fully understand the feedback. If you miss the point, any changes you make could be harmful instead of positive.

And finally, show gratitude. You want to foster a positive relationship that will be beneficial going forward. If you’re negative the entire time and walk away cold, the person giving feedback may not want to provide feedback to you or anyone else again, which would be a shame. Thank your colleague and follow up with them once you’ve utilized their feedback. People are more likely to keep helping if they know their efforts aren’t just tossed in the storage bin. You can’t imagine how far a little recognition can go.

Importance of Giving Feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. By default, there is always a giver and a taker, but giving feedback can be just as rewarding as receiving it. First, positive feedback encounters can lead to lasting professional relationships, opening opportunities for collaboration. Secondly, as you help others overcome challenges, you gain insight into your personal stumbling blocks. It’s kind of amazing how often people will offer advice and then realize they could benefit from the same advice.

Lastly, helping a fellow lawyer grow into an astounding attorney is rewarding emotionally. Giving back, even a few minutes of feedback, just plain feels good. Embrace that feeling and help out as much as you can.

How to Give Good Feedback

Much like receiving feedback, giving good feedback starts with a positive outlook. Don’t go into the situation grumpy, and more importantly, don’t raise your voice, even if the person you’re giving feedback to is an employee who didn’t meet expectations. Setting the correct tone can lead to a better outcome, especially if the goal is to aid them in improving. Shouting, snarky comments, and straight-up being mean will shut the listener down and create a hostile environment that won’t benefit anyone.

Be straightforward and honest with your feedback, leave emotions out of it, don’t just blame them, and cite specific examples. “Write a better opening statement” is not good feedback, but explaining what didn’t work will help immensely.

Remember, questions are essential. This goes for you just as much as for them. Ask questions to learn more about the situation before assuming you know all the details. This will go a long way to ensuring you’re giving helpful advice. And encourage the recipient to ask questions. Just because you know what you’re trying to say doesn’t mean they are on the same wavelength. Don’t power through, dump a bunch of information, and then walk away.

The choice to sandwich or not to sandwich feedback is not cut and dry. If you don’t know, a compliment sandwich is when you start with positive feedback, then pivot to negative feedback, and end with more positive words. Some people swear by the compliment sandwich, while others feel it is fake. Our best advice is to get to know the person (if you don’t already know them well) and adjust your advice accordingly.

And finally, much like receiving feedback, share your gratitude for getting the opportunity to share your thoughts and leave with an offer to answer future questions. You may even want to check in later to see how they are doing, if they’ve hit any other stumbling blocks, and keep the offer of feedback going.

At the end of the day, we all should embrace and normalize giving and receiving feedback in a positive way with a collaborative, supportive community.

Metwork believes feedback is crucial to growing as a lawyer and the legal community into a supportive group that pushes its members forward. Therefore, we built a user-friendly feedback system into our legal networking software to encourage feedback between colleagues. Start from your colleague’s profile and follow three short screens to leave engaging feedback and help your fellow lawyers grow.

Learn more about the first-of-its-kind legal networking app: