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Chapter 2/6

Team Meetings and Communication for Law Firms

Managing a Small Law Firm

5 min read

Law Firm Team Meetings and Communication 

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 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.

Team Meetings and Check-Ins

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 discuss problems and create solutions. Let’s explore how this could look for your law firm team. Then, decide whether the topics warrant a traditional meeting or a written update, who should be involved, and how often.

  • 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 for less experienced team members who may not understand how to move cases forward.
  • Leadership Team Meetings. This should be an action-oriented meeting. 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. Use this time to reflect on key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics monitored to determine the health of your business. If a team member or KPI shows a problem, discuss potential solutions and determine an alternative course of action.
  • 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 your team has prioritized for the day/week. Find out if they need help or any necessary logistical information. 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 its 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.
  • 1:1 Meetings. Great managers also schedule time to connect with their team members regularly. This is a way to invest in the team member’s professional development. The team member should own the agenda. It is their time to discuss how things are going. Give them space to air issues or bring new ideas. Engage with them about their goals personally and professionally, and look for how you can help them achieve those goals.    
  • Team Social Time. Having underlying relationships with fellow team members builds trust. Don’t forget to include time for your team to hang out and get to know each other. 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.

Best Practices for Firm-Wide Team Meetings

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 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.

Communication Outside Meetings

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. But, 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. 

Be aware of how disruptive distractions can be. Research from UC Irvine shows that it can take 25 minutes to refocus on your task after being interrupted. You can attempt to manage this by thinking about when your team should communicate. For example, are there set times throughout the day when it would be appropriate to ping people with questions?  Could you set an all-team “work block” every morning where everyone establishes focus time?

We often hear lawyers worry that somehow team members will perceive 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 about assigned task updates as work progresses through the system. This can be invaluable for the manager trying to manage the team’s work.