A necessary evil of being a lawyer is the dreaded “meeting.” However, lost time is lost money. Do you find most meetings you attend are useless and a waste of time and energy? Here are some tips to make them more productive, efficient and effective.
1. Have a Purpose
What do you want to get out of the meeting? Do you want feedback on a proposal, do you want ideas to generate plans or documents? Make your purpose clear at the beginning and make sure at the end you have made progress in achieving your purpose.
2. Circulate Homework and Agenda Early
If you want people to review materials, respond to questions, or present at the meeting, let them know early (at least two weeks before the meeting). People have very busy lives. Respect them. Asking attorneys to review and be prepared to discuss many pages of materials a week before a meeting will ensure people will not do it or will merely skim. You will may not have robust discussion that you want because people have not had adequate time to prepare.
3. Set an Agenda
Create an agenda before the meeting and adhere to it faithfully. Be realistic about the topics and time you anticipate to devote to each topic. Make sure you adequately describe each topic so the attendees understand the topic.
4. Stay on Time and Adhere to your Agenda
Start and end on time, even if the timing in the agenda if flexible. Keep an eye on the time to ensure that you are moving through the agenda at an appropriate pace. You don’t want to rush through the agenda and miss the opportunity for important discussions, but keeping everyone focused on the most important topics is crucial. If you are leading the meeting or have delegated that task, you are responsible for guiding the group through the discussion, making sure that the conversation does not stray off topic. If presenters have timed sections to speak, make sure you have someone keeping time, who is not afraid of cutting people off.
5. Offer Time For Discussion
Allow time for conversation, questions, and attendee interaction. This will ensure actual engagement in the meeting rather then just a series of presentations or lectures. The agenda should include time for discussion for each topic, and 5-10 minutes to identify action items and/or areas for follow-up.
6. Timely Follow-Up
After the meeting, send out a list of action items, listing the person(s) responsible and the minutes (if possible). This should be done within a week of the meeting. This will keep everyone on track with relevant action items. Schedule a follow-up call as the next deadline for this will ensure you accomplish more between meetings.
Productive and efficient meetings can have a major impact on your firm or organization’s productivity and bottom line. Thoughtful meeting management can transform a necessary and useless evil into an effective tool for productivity, collaboration, and engagement.
About the Author
Christina M. Liu is an attorney with Winget, Spadafora & Schwartzberg, LLP in Chicago. She can be reached at 312.985.5600 or at Liu.C@wssllp.com.