Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog
Category: Effective Meetings
Jun 21, 2011
Our firm used to have weekly firm meetings to discuss management and operational issues. We discontinued them due to the excessive time being spent and questionable results and value. Now we are finding that we are totally unfocused and having problems with poor accountability and things falling through the cracks. We are now considering starting up weekly meetings again but want to insure that we do a better job of managing meetings than we did in the past. What are your thoughts?
Before scheduling a meeting consider the purpose of the meeting. In general there are the following four types of meetings:
- Strategy Meetings are rich group discussions involving strategy and planning sessions, brainstorming, group budgeting, marketing, or financial planning. These meetings are effective when everyone understands the purpose and the ground rules.
- Reporting Meetings consist of one person informing the others in the room and sharing of information. These meetings are valuable only if the news is meaningful to most of the attendees. There may be Q&A and discussion, and different people may report out during the same meeting. These meetings should be structured.
- Status Meetings are often low in value and you should keep them sort. Attorneys and other team members need to share information and brief sessions are effective at keeping the team on the same page. Consider stand-up meetings – where literally, everyone is standing. It keeps the meetings short. Require agendas.
- Dilemma or Issue Meetings where just a few of the participants engage in detailed problem solving, are inefficient. Don't drag the whole group into dilemma or issue meetings. If your meeting is headed this direction deflect it for one-on-one time.
Meetings work best when they have:
- An agenda – for reporting and status meetings.
- A meeting chair or facilitator – who helps the attendees stick to the agenda.
- Meeting minutes – listing decisions, action items, and due dates – sent to all participants shortly after the meeting.
- Ground rules – especially for strategy meetings.
Take charge of meetings. Unmanaged meetings are time wasters.
You might want to start with short weekly status meetings using the format outlined above. Conduct reporting meetings on a monthly basis and strategy meetings on a quarterly basis or annual using a off-site retreat format.
Start slow and go from there. Push for accountability and results.
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC