At law firms, where billables matter and work days run long, making use of every hour of every day is important.
But, even lawyers must admit that an 18-hour workday hasn’t been productive each logged minute. In fact, without proper beaks for lunch or coffee, for example, concentration and efficiency will wane.
Although it may be tempting to eat at your desk or order takeaway, the lunch hour between noon and one o’clock can be used to boost other less measurable but equally important aspects of law practice.
How? Turn lunch hour into a bonding experience.
Take a tip from some of the nation’s most successful start-ups by taking action. Entrepreneurs understand the benefits to spending lunch hour in a creative way. To survive in a competitive industry, perhaps law firm managers should, too.
Whose model lunch break? Meet one of New York’s 10 coolest start-up CEOs.
Jim Moran, co-founder of New York City-based Yipit (a daily deal site filter and aggregator), has $7.55 million in venture funding in the bank. But, the buck doesn’t stop there.
In addition to an innovative business, Moran has an innovative lunch hour.
“On Thursdays, the company participates in team lunches where everyone is randomly split up into smaller groups and heads somewhere in the city to eat,” explains Entrepreneur Magazine in its profile of “How Entrepreneurs at 10 Cool Start-Ups Spend Their Lunch Hour.”
“Each team decides its restaurant choice through an elaborate system of suggestions, vetoes and countdown times called The Lunch Game,”
Why is it important? At Yipit, this lunch system is important because it puts everybody out of the office at the same time. Furthermore, The Lunch Game mixes fun and festivity into the company’s daily grind, allowing employees to get to know one another in am informal and more organic way.
“Lunch is a great way to get your mind off work and get to know some other folks at the company,” Moran said to Entrepreneur Magazine.
“Eating together once a day is how we stay connected as we grow.”
What are the benefits for the small firm? In small law firms, it’s especially important for associates to be present in the office at the same time.
At small firms, individuals have more generalized responsibilities. There’s often just a few junior associates per partner or senior associate. This can create a lonely, overwhelming, and stiff environment if the firm’s corporate culture is not properly built.
More than at big firms, to pull their weight, employees at small law firms must work together. If people take lunches at different times in the middle of the day, it will be more difficult to coordinate work effort.
In addition, small law firms behave more like family firms. Close quarters usually means close personal relationships and a need for trust.
Cultivate this asset by implementing a lunch game that boosts morale, increases camaraderie, and tears down any stiff, hierarchical relationships that might interfere with building a culture of mutual support.
What are the benefits for the big firm? On the other hand, big law firms can often produce sterile, impersonal work environments. Associates of the same year band together. Partners forget the names of younger, newer attorneys.
So, personalize your office. Take a page from Yipit’s younger generation and make a game out of lunch. Randomize the groups so that each and every staff member, associate, and senior attorney get to know one another.
Of course, lawyers tend to hold client meetings at lunch, and the idea of a lunch game might be hard for more seasoned law firm partners to swallow.
Start small. See how effective these lunches turn out among your first- and second- year associates.
If your firm isn’t quite ready for this culinary risk, Yipit also has a Friday tradition called Awesome Lunch. The company treats the team to a catered meal at the office by a top-notch NYC restaurant, reports Entrepreneur Magazine.
Certainly no high-powered partner can complain about a high-powered lunch.
When it comes to settling the bill and justifying the expense, providing lunch once a week is a fairly inexpensive way to increase professional satisfaction and retention among your employees.
Plus, every Friday, you now know how and exactly where to reach your associates in times of emergency. Your attorneys don’t need to be tied to their Blackberries when they have blackberry pie in the conference room.