Not Another Meeting...

Kathy Fortin

November 13, 2018

Not Another Meeting…

 Why have meetings developed a bad reputation? Often I hear: “They are a waste of time.” I know firsthand what they mean. Here are some of the reasons for the reputation.

 1.  Some meetings are not well run. Often the person running the meeting does not know how to run a meeting. As a result, discussions are not well focused and little gets accomplished.

 2. The right people are not always in attendance.

 3.  The topics addressed are not relevant.

 4. The Meeting Agenda can be covered in less time.

 5. The gathering becomes a complaint session.

Sound familiar? But, meetings are a critical vehicle of communication. Law firm leaders and managers need to communicate through meetings and they should not be avoided. Meetings offer critical face-to-face exchanges, are the best means of decision-making and can not be replaced in developing inter-personal relations. 

 The good news is that people can learn better ways to conduct meetings by following some simple guidelines.

 1. Hold meetings for a purpose and with a goal. Whether regularly scheduled meetings, like weekly staff meetings or quarterly firm meetings, make the goal and reason (s) clear. Having six staff members listen to war stories, while the work on their desks is piled high, is not a good use of anyone’s time.

 2. Start on time and end on time. Always provide a timeframe, whether 30 minutes, an hour or half a day. And, stick to it. Watch the clock as you go. People need to plan their day. People should not be forced to feel uncomfortable leaving an unending meeting before it is over.

 3. Create and distribute an “Agenda.” Distribute it ahead of time, with accompanying materials, if required, so everyone knows the content and can add or revise to the Agenda as needed. This allows time to prepare, making input more valuable.

 4. Always include time for questions and instruct the group at the beginning if comments and questions are to be left for the end or where the material is presented. Be clear. Don’t change course.

 5. Control discussions to stay on topic. One method is to table off-topic discussions to the next meeting. Sticking to a well- prepared Agenda is the role of the Chair of the meeting or the person who called the meeting.

6. End every meeting with a recap of what occurred, with “Action Items” and “Assignments” and who will be responsible for what. Always develop deadlines.

 7. Don’t forget beverages and food!

People do want to learn helpful information and understand that meetings are essential, but too often they are disappointed, frustrated, and even angry that they are not doing something more constructive. Having too few meetings can be a problem. Consider these type meetings:

 *Regular staff meetings may occur weekly or bi-weekly for the purpose of addressing workloads, priorities, deadlines, and questions about pending work.

 *Office or firm meetings called to make announcements, discuss new policies, or address other firm issues.

 *Team meetings with associates, paralegals, and legal assistants, when working on a major project, to cover the goals, deadlines and any problems.

 *Quarterly, semi-annual, or annual office/firm retreats, to plan firm revenue goals, set individual goals, and set strategic objectives.