Team Meetings and Communication for Law Firms
Managing a Small Law Firm
5 min read
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Your law firm depends on effective communication. Most law firm team members do not work in a silo—they need to know what other people are doing to perform their work well. As the team’s manager, you also need to know what people on your team are accomplishing and if they need help or support.
In this chapter, we’ll break down best practices for keeping everyone on the team on the same page.
Meetings sometimes get a bad rap. Understandably so. They often feel unnecessary or a waste of time. Conducted the right way and in the right cadence, though, they become the backbone of your team’s work.
Meetings serve to distribute information or solve problems. Let’s explore how this could look for your team. Then, you can decide whether the topics warrant a traditional meeting or a written update, how often to have them, and who should be involved.
Case Status Meetings or Work Review Meetings. This is the time to discuss client work with your team. It’s helpful to see what is happening in each case and what needs to happen next. These meetings can be constructive with less experienced law firm team members who may not understand how to move cases forward.
Leadership Team Meetings. This is a time for the firm’s leaders to discuss and solve issues that come up in the company. Issues can result from team members and their performance, firm projects, casework, client feedback, or team feedback. You should also use this time to reflect on key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics you are monitoring to determine the health of your business. If a team member or KPI shows a problem, use this time to discuss potential solutions and determine an alternative course of action. This should be an action-oriented meeting.
Department Meetings. This meeting is similar in scope to the leadership team meeting. However, instead of looking at the entire company, participants focus on a specific area or department of the firm.
All Team Check-Ins. A manager’s job is to help prioritize their team’s work. An all-team check-in provides an opportunity to take the pulse of the team. Here, you can learn what work they have prioritized for the day/work, find out if they need help, or any logistical information that could apply to the rest of the time. This could include “I’m on vacation Friday and need this covered.” At Lawyerist, we share best personal and business news from the week and how we’re feeling mentally.
Daily Stand-Up Meetings. Law firm team members often need to ask for help. Instead of constantly bugging their manager, have them batch those questions for a daily stand-up meeting. This meeting gets its name from it’s intended brevity. If in person, participants stand during the meeting because it is a quick check-in—not a long discussion. Managers can see work progression, answer questions, and provide direction as needed.
Team Social Time. Don’t forget to include time for your team to hang out and get to know each other. Having underlying relationships with fellow team members builds trust. It makes it easier to ask someone for help, jump in and help someone out, or give feedback. Plus, people generally like working with people they care about. Planned social time with the team is not frivolous—it is critical to building a solid culture and a high-functioning team.
If you decide to conduct a traditional meeting, make it effective. To ensure your team meetings are productive, follow these best practices:
Start on time. Every minute delayed is a lost opportunity. It also sends the wrong message to your team. Start on time, every time, and repeat the goal of the meeting to focus attention.
Stick to your agenda. Create an agenda ahead of time and stick to it. If additional issues arise that need discussion, schedule another meeting to do so or push those items to the following week’s agenda.
Develop an action plan with the next steps. Before closing the meeting, create an action plan using the items discussed. Outline the next steps your team must take and who’s responsible for each. At your next meeting, assess your progress.
Allow time for concerns and highlights. Give your team time to discuss any immediate client highlights or concerns. Save other items for another discussion.
Your law firm team must have an effective way to communicate outside of regular meetings. To serve your clients, you must have a way to talk about your cases. Often, projects to improve the business involve more than one person. Email is the default for many firms. The problem with email is that it is often ineffective and scattershot. It also leads to tons of distractions throughout the day.
Luckily, many firms embrace all the functions of Microsoft Teams, including the chat feature that mirrors a tool like Slack. Being able to group communication by topic and thread specific conversations is often more effective than email.
We often hear lawyers worry that somehow team members will perceive your communications with them as micromanaging. Don’t allow this fear to keep you from good communication. Micromanaging is when you take over the roles and responsibilities you assign to your team. Communication conveys needed information to understand the status of the team member’s work and if and where they could use help.
Finally, don’t be afraid to use different communication tools. In Chapter 4, we’ll discuss project management tools. These systems allow team members to “notify” you that assigned tasks are in progress or done as work improves through the system. This can be invaluable for the manager trying to manage the team’s work.