The digital age has made it possible to communicate with virtually anyone in the world (or in the workplace) without ever leaving your desk. At law firms, this decrease in human engagement, combined with the emergence of cloud technology and the growing popularity of virtual staffing, has made it harder than ever to effectively communicate with colleagues.
Here are some best practices to enhance communication at your firm:
#1: Establish trust
The foundation of effective communication is trust, and the best way for law firm leaders to lay that foundation is to build a strong rapport with employees. Do this by showing a genuine interest in people, empathizing with their challenges, and following through when you offer assistance.
#2: Don’t abandon in-person meetings
Yes, most people don’t like meetings, but they are necessary when it comes to managing a law firm. To allow everyone to contribute and keep team members from feeling isolated, consider hosting in-person meetings on a regular basis. Face-to-face interaction can pay dividends when it comes to making sure everyone is on the same page with shared goals.
By using key strategies to make every meeting more valuable, meetings can become a valuable tool in improving communication, planning, and execution of strategy at your firm.
#3: Manage tasks in real-time
Lawyers are notorious for micromanaging, but there is a way to remain efficient without hovering over your staff – it’s called delegation. Lawyers should be delegating non-substantive legal work to the staff and keeping the billable duties for themselves and qualified paralegals eager for a challenge.
#4: Be open to change
System change was difficult in the past because it typically involved substantial shifts of data. Now, with the rise of cloud technology, system change is much easier, accessible, and user-friendly. As a result, law firms have adopted many types of systems – management platforms with mobile technology and private communication modules – that were unknown in the previous decade.
#5: Listen actively
Instead of viewing communication as getting your own point across, think of it as a two-way street where active listening is essential. Ask questions for clarification, give all conversations your full attention, and avoid formulating your response while the person is still talking. Although it can sometimes be challenging, active listening can be extremely beneficial.
#6: Don’t jump to conclusions
One of the most common roadblocks to effective communication in the workplace is quickly formed assumptions. Instead of jumping to conclusions, approach problems in a non-confrontational way. When you open the lines of communication, you’ll be less likely to miss signals and more apt to finding real solutions.
#7: Explore strengths (and weaknesses)
Whether you do this through keen observation or personality tests, finding out your team members’ strengths and weaknesses will greatly enhance communication in your law firm. By finding out what motivates each individual (and what saps their energy), you’ll be able to improve efficiency and create a more productive office environment.
#8: Offer specific feedback
Telling someone that they did a great job will sometimes produce the opposite of the expected result. Employees who hear vague comments are often left thinking, “What was good about it? How can I replicate it if I don’t know which elements were most valuable?” Instead, offer specific feedback and give the other person an opportunity to contribute as well.
#9: Have consistent expectations
One of the most effective ways to maintain effective workplace communication is to do regular check-ins with your colleagues. If your team members know when you will conduct follow up on a project or what you expect to see, you will help avoid frustration and produce a better outcome for clients.
#10: Make workflow transparent
When working on a large project, do your team members know all the relevant deadlines, who is responsible for what, and how they will need to collaborate with one another. If you’re the only one who has this information, your team members will likely not all be on the same page and might become frustrated by miscommunication.
#11: Match the mode of communication to the situation
While some conversations can be conducted in front of the entire team, others are best done in private. While chat and email can be effective tools, sometimes face-to-face communication will simplify the issue and prevent misunderstandings that can erode the culture of the firm.
Do you know of other ways to improve communication in a law firm? Tell us about them in the comments!