Many parts of daily life are prone to spread. Rashes, gossip, fire. But, for law firm professionals, there’s one type of contagious behavior that should sound the alarms: meetings.
Somehow, meetings procreate. First it’s a monthly meeting. Then, it’s a weekly one. Finally, associates are urgently meeting with superiors in mass conference room meetings every time the coffee pot is empty.
“Meetings are a waste of time unless you are closing a deal,” thinks Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and CEO of HDNet (via Inc).
“There are so many ways to communicate in real time or asynchronously that any meeting you actually sit for should have a duration and set outcome before you agree to go.”
Therein lies the problem. Meetings rarely stick to their agendas. And, when they do, they’ve vastly exceeded the time allocated to them. More often then not, one high-profile, but low-importance issue will arise and dominate the conversation.
From the manager’s perspective, a one-hour meeting is often justifiable. After all, it’s necessary to coordinate work product and hold case status meetings with employees assigned to a client project. Plus, what’s one hour, right?
Collectively, however, a meeting of ten people costs the firm ten hours of productivity. Not to mention the harm done by pulling employees off a particular project just to attend, and then expecting them to continue seamlessly where they left off an hour later.
“Follow Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza rule,” advises Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and a new start-up called Hunch.
“Project teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas. At Hunch, we don’t have meetings unless absolutely necessary. When I used to have meetings, though, this is how I would do it: There would be an agenda distributed before the meeting. Everybody would stand. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone would drink 16 ounces of water. We would discuss everything on the agenda, make all the decisions that needed to be made, and the meeting would be over when the first person had to go to the bathroom.”
For more traditional law firms, this may be a bit alternative. Nevertheless, the fact remains that most professionals mismanage meetings.
Productivity involves thoughtfulness as much as organization. This means, organize an agenda for the meeting and stick to it in an efficient manner. It also means creating a post-meeting agenda.
“The productiveness of any meeting depends on the advance thought given the agenda, and you should never leave a meeting without writing a follow-up list with each item assigned to one person,” sagely explains Barbara Corcoran, who built one of New York’s largest real estate companies.
“And go outside. All the big ideas are on the outside. You’ll never have a creative idea at your desk.”
Successful CEOs have made it clear: Be organized. Be brief. Be creative. Or be gone—don’t hold meetings at all.
Law firms should investigate ways to increase productivity at a group and individual level. Empower and train your employees so that you have confidence in their work without constant correspondence.
Practice being brief (and send back briefs that are not!).
As a manager, set the tone for the entire office by:
- Make the most of the time you have and free up time for mission critical tasks
- Set realistic goals and ‘time to complete’ estimates
- Rid your schedule of time-wasters for a better balanced schedule
- Recognize the difference between important and urgent priorities and tasks
- Keep track of and meet short and long term projects and deadlines
- Better cope with game changing shifts in priorities
- Manage social media time stealers
- Hold meetings only when it’s absolutely necessary
Need some help? Take C4CM’s information-packed 75-minute audio conference on CD “Planning and Prioritizing”. It will help you to:
- identify goals,
- break them into tasks,
- prioritize to save time, and
- increase productivity.