From Cibola Staff
The more accomplished the legal professional, the less time he or she has available for the practice of law. Professional, civic and business demands seem to conspire to limit casework. Fruitless meetings often seem to be the worst culprit of all. It’s estimated that senior professionals spend more than 50 percent of their time participating in or preparing for meetings. And most say they’re dissatisfied with their own meeting productivity.
Law firms, courts and legislative bodies are taking steps to make meetings more productive. Often these involve introducing technologies to enhance collaboration, mentoring and negotiation.
But technology is really the icing on the cake. Productive and fruitful meetings begin with these basic steps:
When people believe a meeting is important, they’re willing to focus on its objectives. If they believe their time is wasted, their minds will not stay focused. Keeping questions on point and building on the answers shows participants that their time is valuable.
Make the best use of everyone’s time by insisting that all those attending a meeting participate. Avoid including people who would be hesitant about making a contribution.
Meetings are more effective when everyone agrees to create a tangible product before leaving. Avoid meetings where the only objective is to talk or listen.
Seating that allows eye contact creates a sense of openness and integrity. Eliminating power positions like tiered seating is also effective. Round or square tables stimulate honest communication.
Develop an agenda. Holding a productive meeting without an agenda is like trying to negotiate a contract without deal points. Display a spreadsheet for the key meeting topic and ask everyone to list his or her single most critical issue.
Eliminate distractions. Disrupting the flow of logic may be a good advocacy strategy, but it’s not a good meeting technique. Also, limiting distractions outside the conference room and controlling noise from neighboring areas help to focus attention. Turn off the phones, close the door and be sure the room is fully supplied before beginning a meeting.
Multimedia presentations are low in cost and usually simple to present, so use them at meetings. Invite a staff person to cut and paste documents, graphs, photographs, whiteboard sketches and even video clips into a visual log of the meeting’s accomplishments or decisions which can be printed or posted online.
Quantify the meeting’s success. Give a numerical rating to the meeting on a cost/benefit scale. Ask everyone to value the time invested and the perceived benefits on a scale from one to ten. Include scores in the meeting minutes.
Whether it’s brainstorming a case strategy, preparing for a deposition, discussing a recent case or cultivating a new client, encouraging the effective exchange of knowledge can result in increased productivity and should be a focus for professional growth and organizational efficiencies.