With apologies to Jan Glassman of Daily General Counsel, for this partial conversion of the title for her excellent #DontBeThatBoss series, my intention this week is to write about methods for improving law firm staff morale via the execution of effective and regular meetings.
Effective communication from supervisors is essential to the maintenance of a standard of workflow. Most managing attorneys are very busy, and wish for communication to move from below to above; but, that is not the nature of gravity. Supervising lawyers cannot ignore the responsibility of active management; they must communicate regularly with their staffpersons, both in groups, and individually, in order to keep tabs on the state of their business, and also to make sure that expectations are being met. Managing attorneys should have full staff meetings on at least a monthly basis, with the offer of regular in-person meetings for individual staffpersons, as needs require. For subordinate attorneys, and depending on the size of the firm, there may be a need for monthly attorneys-only meetings, to discuss broader firm issues and matters of overarching case strategy; but, even with that expedient, it makes good sense to hold docket meetings with each subordinate attorney, at least weekly.
That likely covers the quantitative question for those interested; yet, there remain qualitative considerations for improving the effectiveness of the meetings that you do run:
-Larger meetings (read: not one-on-one meetings) should always feature agendas, to focus the participants. Agendas should be distributed via email at a reasonable advance of the meeting, and paper copies should be provided for in-person meetings.
-If you can manage to keep your staff seasonably apprised of their current roles within the organization (because things that people do shift, even if the fact is not acknowledged), it is more likely that folks will buy into what the firm is trying to do — and, especially if they feel they have a real say about what their job functions ultimately become. This is important in a number of contexts; but, by way of example: If you allow your staff to help to determine the software products the firm uses, they then become invested in those products; and, if certain staffpersons are particularly invested, you may end up by having discovered an in-house trainer on an important software application that you use. That will save you money (reduced support bill), and will make you more efficient — which, in itself, will make you money.
-Even as the numbers of remote employees rise, and work hours shift and move, the different ways to connect remotely continue to increase and improve, such that there is no excuse, even for virtual law firms, to avoid meetings — just because they’re not in-person meetings. Between video and chat and collaboration tools, you should be able to advance the right combination of options to make your meetings happen, regardless of where physically the participants happen to be at the time.
It is true that law firms where the attorneys and staff are driving for the same goals are the more successful law firms. However, if managing partners don’t continuously maintain formal and open dialogue about expectations for employees, and the goals that those expectations support, that lack of communication will give rise to disorganization, inefficiency and mistrust. And, modern law firms cannot function as star chambers; individuals must be the stars.
I’m not the musical theater type; but, I have got to say, I really love the original ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ album. Although it may be blasphemous to say so, I think that the standout tracks on the album are just as good, if not better than, any rock opera inclusions ‘the Who’ ever produced (and there is some excellent stuff on ‘Tommy’, and some very good stuff on ‘Quadrophenia’). Everybody knows ‘Superstar’, which is sort of the crescendo of the whole thing; but, my favorite track is definitely ‘What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying’. There are just so many styles and emotional responses at play in this song; and, Judas’ ‘Strange Thing Mystifying’ segment is one of the best vignettes in the history of popular music.