Ever get the nagging feeling that too many of the meetings you find yourself in are not strictly essential? Or even, possibly, a waste of your time?
While periodic meetings can increase productivity, meetings in law firms are often notorious for starting late, running long, being unengaging, or having no defined purpose.
To make sure your firm is using everyone’s valuable time wisely, here are 7 questions that need to be asked and answered before you set up a meeting at your firm:
#1: Is this meeting essential?
Many law firms have standing meetings on the calendar (not to be confused with stand-up meetings that require participants to remain standing the entire time) that magically appear every week on everyone’s calendar, but are these meetings always necessary?
To answer this question, you’ll need to think back upon past standing meetings in the firm. Could the topics discussed been conveyed just as easily via email or an interoffice memo? If so, consider making the standing meeting a thing of the past and call a meeting only when one is necessary.
#2: Who needs to be there?
Just as it is incredibly irritating to get copies of emails you don’t need to see (remember, there is a critical difference between “reply” and “reply all”), being invited to a meeting on a topic that has nothing to do with you and keeps you from getting your actual work done is equally annoying.
Also, meetings involving numerous people tend to bog down, so smaller groups of decision-makers tend to produce better results. However, try not to allow one or two voices to dominate meetings – not including everyone present can be a drain on everyone’s productivity.
#3: Will this time be convenient for everyone?
Try to choose a time for the meeting that will allow all participants to attend. The easy way to do this is to use Outlook’s scheduling assistant to check your team’s availability, but first, you’ll need to make sure that everyone maintains their own calendar (which is not always a given in a law firm).
If you have questions regarding availability, you can also pick up the phone to confirm before sending out multiple invites that will likely only generate proposals for other timeframes.
#4: Is meeting face-to-face essential?
If all attendees are in the same place, meeting face-to-face might be a no-brainer. However, if geography, distractions, or other issues make meeting in-person impossible, there are plenty of virtual alternatives, such as:
If you plan to rely on technology, make sure to conduct a dry run plenty of time before the meeting is scheduled to begin to avoid glitches and make sure everything is on track.
#5: What’s on the agenda?
Circulate an agenda for the meeting ahead of time. The plan needs to be concise but clear, outline in detail all the topics to be discussed, and serve to lead the discussion.
When pressed for time, allocate a specific amount of time for each item to help keep the meeting on schedule. Doing an agenda also brings us to another important point – how long the prospective meeting needs to be.
#6: What time will the meeting start (and stop)?
When you schedule a meeting, try to remember that everyone in the room is sacrificing part of their day to be there. Starting and stopping on time will inject a sense of urgency into the meeting and helps people resist the urge to waste time discussing less critical topics.
Treating people’s time respectfully by starting and stopping meetings on time can make them feel that it is a well-spent portion of everyone’s time, rather than an event that they had no choice but to attend.
#7: How can I ensure that this meeting will be memorable?
People tend to zone out in meetings, especially those taking place in law firms. How can you make a meeting more memorable? Try to include a unique element into each meeting – hold it at a significant time, change the location periodically, talk about the resolution of a particularly complex or unique case, or add visuals to make the event more interactive for those attending.
#8: How can I make this productive?
Consider again the purpose for this meeting. What needs to happen during, before, or after the meeting to make it all worthwhile?
Maybe a key decision needs to happen before the meeting ends, and it would behoove you to provide contextual details for review ahead of time.
Perhaps the meeting is to organize the next steps or allocate tasks. Be certain that everyone leaves the meeting, then, with a clear list of items they are responsible for and a set of due dates for each.
Do you know of other questions that you should ask before scheduling a meeting at your law firm? Tell us about them in the comments!