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3 Ways to Have Better Staff Meetings

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By William Peacock, Esq. on January 29, 2014 12:56 PM

What's your typical meeting like?

Partner walks in, sits at the head of the table, and runs the circus. Associates sit quietly at the end of the table, trying to remain attentive, but they have memos due by 3:00 p.m. to the same partner that is talking about last Sunday's golf game.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is teleconferencing in from home, where he's caring for a sick puppy. Unfortunately, he didn't mute his phone and we all have to hear the dog vomiting and whimpering.

Stop wasting billable time. Fix your meetings.

Don't Have a Meeting

Do you have meetings where an email or informal face-to-face conversation will do?

Do you really need to have a meeting on the impending due date for motions in that Sixth Circuit appeal, or can you send an email? Better yet, can you walk to your associate's desk and talk to her about it?

Or perhaps, you have regularly-scheduled meetings, even when there is nothing to talk about.

Regular meetings can be a good thing, and can give the introverts amongst your staff the opportunity to express themselves. But with all the work you have to do, it might be worth reevaluating the frequency and necessity of a regular meeting. Maybe instead of daily, you go weekly.

Kill Conference Calls (if Possible)

Nuff said. Overlapping voices, dropped calls, echoes, barking dogs, people doing dishes during the presentation, annoying chiming noises, and the mute button are just some of the things that can go wrong with telephone-based conference calls.

In person trumps phones. If that's not possible, try a Google Hangout (for group chats) and Skype or WebRTC (for one-to-one conversations). At least with a video, the person on the other end will be paying attention.

Standup Meetings and/or Scrums

This tip comes from a colleague: try a stand-up meeting.

One study of 111 five-person groups found that sit-down meetings were 34 percent longer [PDF] than stand-up meetings, yet the sit-down meetings produced no better decisions than stand-up meetings.

Perhaps that study is the reason why software companies have widely employed the Daily Scrum meeting, a time-limited stand-up meeting where the core members of the team answer three questions:

  • What have you done since yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • Any impediments/stumbling blocks? (Solutions are discussed after the meeting, to keep things on-track.)

The idea sounds hokey at first, but it could prove to be useful in law firm meetings where the team is balancing deadlines in multiple cases. It keeps everyone up-to-date on all cases, gives team members opportunities to ask for help, and is a great alternative to the traditional sit-down meeting where a partner rambles for forty minutes while the associates sit terrified, thinking about the work sitting on their desks.

How does your firm handle staff meetings? Share your tips with us on Facebook.

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