PSUs in Legal Tech: Measuring Success Through Metrics and Case Studies

Casey Fenton


January 26, 2024

How effective are Performance Share Units (PSUs) in achieving business goals, especially in the dynamic realm of legal tech? That's the burning question many employers find themselves pondering.

PSUs aren’t just a fancy term. They represent a vital intersection of compensation, motivation, and company success. But measuring their true impact requires a deep understanding of the metrics behind them. Pair that with insights from real-world examples in the legal tech industry, and you've got a recipe for clarity.

Ready to embark on this enlightening journey?

Understanding Performance Share Units (PSUs)

Ever stared at a compensation package and wondered, "What's this PSU thing all about?"

You're not alone. The world of compensation has its jargon, but breaking down the concept of PSUs makes it evident why they're becoming increasingly popular, especially in the realm of legal tech.

Brief Overview

At its core, a PSU is like a pledge from a company. Imagine this: based on achieving specific performance benchmarks, employees stand to earn a slice of the company's stock pie.

PSUs aren’t just a handout; there's strategy and structure here:

  • Awarding Process: Think of it as an added bonus in a compensation package. Over time, as the company progresses, these units mature, potentially increasing in value.
  • Vesting: Ever heard of the phrase "Good things come to those who wait?" It applies here. PSUs typically have a vesting period. This means they mature either after a certain timeframe or when the company hits specific milestones.
  • Connection to Performance: Here's where things get interesting. Unlike other stock rewards, the value and quantity of PSUs hinge on company performance. So, if the company is on a winning streak, guess what? Those shares could multiply!

Benefits of PSUs

In the competitive landscape of legal tech, attracting and retaining top-tier talent is paramount. PSUs serve as a crucial tool in this endeavor:

  • Retention Power: Employees see a compelling reason to stay and deliver their best. Their potential stock earnings are tied directly to the company's achievements.
  • Alignment of Objectives: With PSUs in play, everyone's eyes are set on the same target. Shared aspirations lead to a unified workforce, propelling the company towards its goals.
  • Motivation Boost: Knowing that one's efforts can lead to tangible stock rewards often acts as a motivational catalyst. Employees tend to go the extra mile, knowing that their diligence can bear fruit in the form of valuable shares.
  • Attracting Talent: In a world where employees are more discerning about their compensation packages, PSUs can be a game-changer. They can lure in high-caliber professionals who see the potential for significant stock gains as an enticing part of their compensation.

Now that there's clarity on what PSUs are and how they function, it becomes crucial to understand how to measure their success. Let’s learn about metrics.

The Importance of Relevant Metrics in PSU Programs

Metrics – more than mere numbers, they stand as the guiding stars, helping companies chart their course in the vast business universe. And when it's about PSUs, the right metrics can be the dividing line between soaring success and falling short of the mark.

Key Metrics for Evaluating PSU Programs

Navigating the realm of PSUs without the right metrics is like sailing without a compass. So, what metrics should companies be focusing on to ensure their PSU programs are on track?

  1. Performance Metrics: The big players in this category are deeply rooted in a company's operational and strategic ambitions. These aren't just numbers; they're the pulse of a company's progress. Some crucial ones include:

  1. Revenue Growth: A rising revenue trend? That's a sign of business health and is directly linked to the strategic efforts of the team.
  2. Customer Satisfaction Scores: Happy customers can drive a business forward, and these scores are tangible proof.
  3. Product Development Milestones: For legal tech firms, product innovation is vital. Meeting developmental milestones indicates that a company is moving in the right direction.

  1. Retention Metrics: Talent retention in the legal tech industry isn't just a metric—it's a strategic imperative. The cost of employee turnover can be staggering when considering recruitment expenses, lost productivity, and the intangible hit to team morale.

Two main aspects come into focus:

  1. Employee Tenure: This metric tracks the average length of time employees stay with the company. A longer average suggests that the company, and by extension its PSU program, succeeds in keeping its workforce engaged. However, a declining tenure could indicate dissatisfaction, even if the reasons are not directly related to the PSUs.
  2. Turnover Rate among PSU Recipients: Specifically monitoring the turnover rate among employees who've received PSUs can provide deeper insights. A high turnover here is especially concerning. It might mean that while PSUs are attractive initially, they may not be enough to outweigh other concerns employees might have, be it company culture, workload, or growth opportunities. Conversely, a low turnover rate among this group could indicate that the PSUs serve as a strong retention tool, reinforcing their value in the compensation package.

  1. Financial Metrics: While the other metrics offer a nuanced view, the bottom line matters immensely:

  1. ROI (Return on Investment): It's the biggie. Is the investment in a PSU program bringing in returns that justify its existence? If the answer is no, well… it might be time to reassess things.
  2. EPS (Earnings Per Share): When employees cash in their PSUs, what impact does it have on the EPS? A crucial metric that can offer insights into the program's broader impact.
  3. Total Shareholder Return (TSR): It’s a comparative measure that looks at the return provided to shareholders relative to other market benchmarks. If TSR is favorable, it might suggest that the PSU program is contributing positively to overall shareholder value.

Metrics are the unsung heroes of any PSU program. They offer clarity, guide decision-making, and most importantly, help companies stay on course.

With these metrics in hand, firms can ensure that their PSU programs aren't just effective but exemplary. But how do these metrics come alive in the real world?

Case Study Exploration: Metrics in Action

Stories often speak louder than mere facts or figures. When evaluating PSUs, the real-world scenarios of companies offer valuable insights into both successes and pitfalls.

DocuSign – The Success Story

A brief background: Known for its electronic signature solutions, DocuSign has grown into a veritable titan in the legal tech sector.

Here’s DocuSign’s PSU Program Strategy:

  • Metrics Emphasized: The company prioritized metrics such as user growth, platform stability, and transaction volume.
  • Outcome: These metrics ensured that the team's focus remained on both client acquisition and delivering a seamless user experience. As a result, DocuSign witnessed improved business objectives and an impressive uptick in its stock price.

Everlaw – The Learning Curve

A brief background: Everlaw is a cloud-based litigation platform. While they’ve made significant strides in the industry, their journey with PSUs offers some valuable lessons.

Here’s Everlaw’s PSU Program Strategy:

  • Missteps: Despite having a well-structured PSU program, Everlaw initially overlooked key metrics related to user feedback and platform efficiency.
  • Course Correction: Recognizing the gaps, the company incorporated more holistic metrics, considering not just profitability but also user satisfaction and employee feedback. This shift underscored the importance of a rounded approach – profitability is vital, but so is ensuring that both clients and employees are content.

The stories of DocuSign and Everlaw remind companies of a critical truth: PSU programs, when guided by comprehensive and relevant metrics, can be transformative. But overlooking even a single vital metric might lead one astray.

As the exploration unfolds, it becomes clear: Success in PSU programs is as much about the journey of continuous adaptation as it is about the end results.

Key Takeaways for Employers

Metrics aren't just about numbers. Think of them as a mirror reflecting company objectives and aspirations.

Tailoring metrics to the unique needs of a company while being attuned to industry trends can mean the difference between a thriving workforce and a plateauing one. It’s like picking the right paint colors for a masterpiece—it requires intuition, knowledge, and a bit of daring.

Staying Agile

The world of legal tech doesn't sit still. Innovations and disruptions emerge at a brisk pace, challenging the status quo.

A static PSU strategy is a risky game. Continually updating and refining program strategies ensures companies remain at the forefront, ready to seize opportunities or mitigate unforeseen challenges.

The Power of Peer Learning

The journeys of other organizations can become a veritable compendium of invaluable lessons. Their high-flying moments and stumbles both provide valuable perspectives.

Monitoring industry peers helps in understanding what's working and what's not. Embracing a culture of learning—both from personal experiences and the tales of others—can sharpen strategic planning and execution.

In essence, the PSU landscape is intricate, but with the right insights, focus, and a thirst for continuous learning, employers can master this terrain. After all, it's not just about attracting talent but nurturing and retaining it in the long run. As the legal tech sector propels forward, having a dynamic, insightful PSU strategy becomes more crucial than ever.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the world of Performance Share Units in the legal tech realm is indeed a thrilling journey. PSUs, as one can clearly see, are not mere add-ons in a compensation package. Instead, they're at the heart of a broader equity compensation strategy, designed to bring harmony between what a company wants to achieve and where its employees focus their energies.

The power of PSUs lies in their capacity to intertwine company performance with employee rewards. When companies hit their benchmarks, everyone shares in the success, fostering a culture of shared achievements and aspirations. It’s like having everyone in the same boat, rowing in unison towards a bright horizon.

Equity compensation, of which PSUs are a vital component, isn't just about the numbers. It's about the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and shared dreams. When managed with insight and precision, these compensation tools can truly be transformative for both employers and employees.

Ready to redefine compensation strategies and discover how equity compensation like PSUs can be the catalyst in achieving coveted business milestones? Drop us a message and let’s chat!

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Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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