In this episode, I talk about meetings that matter. Many lawyers are anti-meetings, including my past-self. I wasn’t too fond of the idea of having meetings unless they were necessary. I firmly believed that a meeting was a waste of time and productivity.
However, in the present, I see meetings as opportunities for teams to collaborate, preventing future issues in businesses. It doesn’t mean that you will need to have a meeting anytime your team wants to communicate something.
Tune in to today’s episode to find out how you can have high productivity meetings that can help you sustain the business’s forward movement and avoid potential chaos.
In this episode we discuss:
- Having meetings to get the work of the business done and propel the business forward.
- The impact building a work community has on work satisfaction.
- Using a weekly meeting to discuss the big issues and to reassess.
- Having less frequent all-firm meetings to inspire and share a company vision.
- How problem-solving meetings should be a group effort to identify & improve on the issue without any finger pointing or casting blame.
- Conducting a weekly MICS meeting with department heads and what MICS stands for.
Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:24] Hi, everybody, I’m Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor, and on this episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, we’re going to talk about meetings that matter. So I know a lot of you are anti meeting. I consider myself to be in the anti meeting club. I don’t like having meetings unless they are absolutely necessary. And every time some advisor or coach or consultant says to me, you need to be meeting with people more, you need to be connecting with your team more, I think, oh, isn’t this something that I can just relate in an email? Do we really have to stop and have a meeting? Isn’t that a waste of time and productivity? And once upon a time, I was so firmly entrenched in that belief that I refused to have meetings unless the buildings on fire and we actually have to have a meeting. But now I’ve actually grown rather accustomed to the idea of having meetings and making sure that the meetings that I’m having are not just like an eye roll waste of time opportunity, but they really are a chance for us to get the work of the business done in a way that prevents those fires in the future. So the way that I think about meetings now is not, we need to communicate something, let’s have a meeting. But now it is always sustaining the forward movement of the business in a way that promotes the ensuring that we’re not going to be putting out fires in the future.
Allison Williams: [00:01:46] Right. There’s there are so many practice areas that are replete with emergencies. And I used to be the leader of one of them. So I had a practice. I still own my law firm and I’m still the CEO of my law firm. But I’m talking about when I was both a law firm owner and a full time attorney and had 30 plus cases to manage. I remember my practice area was child abuse and neglect. And so it was not uncommon at all that people would call on a Monday and say, hey, my kid is going into foster care unless you help me. Can you be at court tomorrow afternoon? Like, I would literally have a day and a half, sometimes less than that. Sometimes the call would be four o’clock in the afternoon on the Monday for my appearance on Tuesday. And so that type of emergency is kind of baked into the nature of the business, even that had strategy and systems wrapped around it so that I could, in a moment’s notice, jump into a case, do some work for someone, help someone immediately without the oh my God, everything has to change on short notice. This is an emergency. Right. So that’s not necessarily the kind of emergency that I’m talking about.
Allison Williams: [00:02:57] If you have an emergency based practice, somebody is calling up and saying, hey, I just got arrested and I’ve been charged with murder. Can you come down to the jail. Or my mom is going to bail me out. I need an attorney. Can you help me? Right. That might be emergent in the nature of the work, but that doesn’t have to be an emergency for your business. Right. A lot of emergencies for law firms are simply the failure to plan and the failure to systematize activity. So we’re talking about making sure that we are creating meetings in our businesses that are going to propel the business forward so that when what would otherwise be thought of as an emergency happens, we are able to handle it in a way that doesn’t throw us and the entire business into disarray. OK, so I want you to think about this, OK? Even as you think about the idea of can this be done in an email versus a meeting, I want you to think about the fact that people come to your business for the paycheck, but oftentimes they will stay for the community. Right. And so people are very communal by nature, all of us, even those introverts out there, even those anti socials out there, people that don’t like to be with other people at all, there still is a very real basel need that we all have for connectivity with other humans and the greater experience that you have of connecting with humans in a way that makes your job easier, funner and more profitable, the more likely you are going to tie into those meetings and actually look forward to them as a way of preventing problems in the future.
Allison Williams: [00:04:42] OK, it’s also been said that people quit bosses, right? I’ve heard that before, this kind of idea that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. So like if somebody quits is you being a bad boss. But here’s the thing. Even though people might quit their boss, they will keep their work besties. Right. There are a lot of people that will be dissatisfied with the job for however long, but they will stay because of the people that they work with. And I want you to seriously consider that as an asset, because while we certainly don’t want you to not improve upon yourself as a business owner and improve upon yourself as a boss, I want you to take heart in the fact that you don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes when you are growing into the skill of being a better manager, a better leader, you are ultimately freeing up space for other people to create connectivity with people that are not just you. Right. People who are members of the team can be just as strong an incentive, if not an even stronger incentive for a person to stay, than whatever lack of management, skill and prowess that you may have at this time as you’re growing and learning.
Allison Williams: [00:05:55] So there are three strategies I want to give you. Three meetings that you need to have in order to make sure that you are preventing problems in the future and at the same time cohesively building your office culture. So the first meeting is the meeting that needs to happen every single week at minimum between the attorney and the paraprofessional. Now, this can be the attorney and the legal assistant, the attorney and the paralegal. But certainly there needs to be this meeting so that you are delegating work appropriately. So that you are keeping every team member up to speed on what’s happening in your cases and so that you are reviewing and resetting deadlines as may be based on what’s happening. This is also an opportunity for you to discuss and problem all strategies around your difficult clients. Now you might be saying, how are we having difficult clients? Don’t you tell us to fire our difficult clients? And the answer is yes. But the answer is also that I know that the decision to fire our client is not always an easy decision, because, of course, when you fire a client, you’re firing the revenue stream that’s going to come from that client as they pay your bills. So if it’s a good paying client who happens to be a pain or challenging to work with or whatever the case may be, oftentimes we don’t just immediately pull the trigger. Sometimes we try to work with them. We try to coach them. We try to work around some of their challenging attributes. So you need to be having those sessions, those conversations about those clients as you go.
Allison Williams: [00:07:29] Now, the thing that I love about this particular meeting is that a lot of people will resist it because they’ll say, well, I talked to my paralegal every day or I meet with my legal assistant every day. Do I really need to have like a a once a week meeting? And my suggestion would be that as you are growing your business, you’re going to want to create space in your schedule and daily meetings with your paraprofessional. I don’t mean meetings like you’re passing by their desk to hand them something or a document comes in or a client stops by and you need to have a communication about that. Right. I’m talking about more of the if you are stopping and having a paraprofessional in your office to meet for an hour or more every single day, that that is not time well served. That even though that might be time for you to bond with your paraprofessional, it might even be time when they are specifically helping you on some aspect of the case. That if you’re not creating enough space around your employee, that they’re, that they can work autonomously most of their week and be able to bring the major issues, the big questions, the the boulders in your base. We talked about boulders, rocks and sand in the base. That analogy we’ve used before. Right. And I want you to think about the boulders coming to this meeting, the big ideas, the big issues.
Allison Williams: [00:08:55] Having that once a week is a good time to stop and reassess. If you’re having a stop and reset every day, then you’re stopping and starting and stopping and starting and stopping and starting your practice every single day. That is making it challenging to get traction. That might be a woobie for you. That might be where you’re comfortable that you feel like if I communicate with them regularly, they won’t make mistakes. They will have a better sense of what’s going on in the cases. But that tends to mean that you either don’t trust the paraprofessional that you have, to be able to work independently or worse, you don’t trust yourself in order that you can give them work that you know that you can rely upon getting done at the time it needs to get done. OK. The last thing I want to say about the attorney paraprofessional meeting is that I want you to think about your paraprofessional as an extension of your desk. Right. They’re not just there to do specifically what you give to them to do, but you want them to have defined roles and you have defined roles so that you are both working, moving forward contemporaneously, side by side. And at the same time, that person is catching the things that flow from your desk as you’re generating work and facilitating that work. So it’s like having two sets of eyes and ears on every file, and it’s having two different perspectives, two different skill sets, two different strengths and weaknesses, two different ideas about how to handle people, two different human beings that can talk to a client if you have clients, call your office to address whatever issues may be going on.
Allison Williams: [00:10:32] So there’s a lot that happens when your paraprofessional becomes a true extension of your desk and they can often be thought of as kind of like a work wife. But however you, however you manage that relationship, that person can be integrally important and provide immense value so that when your clients are told you’re not available for any reason, they have another set of capable hands in which to entrust their issue.
Allison Williams: [00:11:03] All right, strategy number two, this is meeting number two when we’re talking about meetings that matter, we’ve talked about the meeting with the attorney and paraprofessionals. Next, we’re going to talk about the meeting that you need to have with the entirety of your law firm. This is true, by the way, whether you have a law firm of two people or a law firm of 50 people or more. The meeting with the firm needs to be the CEO vision casting for the firm. OK, now you might be saying what is vision casting? How do I do it? Is there a formula for that? If there is a need for that? OK, there is a process. We are going to have an episode on the podcast about vision casting.
Allison Williams: [00:11:42] But for now, I just want you to think about this as speaking your dreams out loud, OK? Where is this firm going? Where do we want to be in the marketplace? How do we want the community to see us? How do we want to generate our clients? What type of clients do we want to be working with? How are we going to be changing and evolving into the future? Where are the opportunities for people who are currently working in the firm to advance in their career through working with the firm? Right. So a lot of times when lawyers leave law firms, they’re not actually quitting their boss. They’re actually outgrowing what is there for them. Right. So part of your job as a CEO is to inspire the people that you employ. And that inspiration comes from people seeing you, hearing you, understanding you, and in the areas that really matter. So if you’re giving a one year plan to your people, then they can think as far out as one year. But if you’re giving them a 10 year plan or even a 20 year plan, if you’re talking about we want to grow from where we are now to being a 30 office, five division law firm across the state, very, very different. Right. Now this does not mean that you have to in order vision cast, have a huge vision, right? You can have a small vision. You can have a vision that says we’re going to be the best boutique law firm of three lawyers in the state of fill in the blank period.
Allison Williams: [00:13:10] Right. That can be the vision, but maybe the vision includes innovation with technology, or maybe it includes a different level of communication between paraprofessional, professional and client. Maybe it’s going to shift from being led primarily by the lawyer to being led primarily by the case manager who would be an attorney. It could be any number of things, but it needs to be something that is going to inspire your team to be on this journey with you, because as you’re building and growing and evolving and advancing your law firm, just expecting that because someone has a paycheck, they’ll be happy to go along with you for the ride is mistaken, especially in today’s job market. It is mistaken, right? People don’t just work for paychecks anymore. People work for fulfillment. They work for career satisfaction. They work for their own reasons. So the more that you talk about these wonderful things that you’re going to afford a person by virtue of being in it with you, the more that they will be on the journey with you. The goal here is to not just talk about you, but also to talk about the firm and in particular sharing successes of the people celebrating any advancement that you have, if you promoted someone or you plan to promote someone.
Allison Williams: [00:14:34] Problem solving together without blame. Right. So this is very, very important. Typically, when you bring the whole firm together, you do not want to start asking questions of people who screwed up the such and such. And how is this going to get better in the future? You want problem solving to be from a place of how are we all going to be in this together? Right. How are we going to make this better? How are we going to solve this issue? And typically, these would be issues where there isn’t an identifiable problem person. Right. So not somebody did not file something last week and we could trace it back to the John Doe file. That is the responsibility of a particular file clerk. You don’t want to call someone out in the meeting, but you might want to talk about problem solving. Like how are our communications between attorneys and paraprofessionals or how is the lead flow or phone flow of calls coming in? Do we need to stratify our receptionist so that there’s a period of calls, certain types of calls that go direct to the desk of the paraprofessional or direct to the desk of the attorney? How do we move ourselves into the next stage for where the firm is? That’s what we mean by problem solving here. And these meetings are not every week. Obviously, these meetings are typically quarterly. Sometimes you can have them bi monthly. If you’re in super, super, super rapid growth mode, you can do them more frequently.
Allison Williams: [00:16:03] You could do them as often as monthly. But basically, this is a stop, pause reset for the entire office to keep everybody energized and moving forward. And depending on how much you have going on in the different divisions of your firm, you may or may not need to do that more frequently. OK, strategy number three, third type of meeting that we need to have in our meetings, that matter are your division or department heads. OK, so you need to have the different factions of your business stopping and focusing on the work of the department. So you need to have a sales department. Your sales department is intake and consultations, right? What are we selling? How are we selling on the phone, i.e. getting people scheduled for appointments? And how are we at getting people converted into paying clients, i.e. generating new clients through selling legal services? You need to have a marketing department. Right. So how are we marketing the firm? And by the way, for those of you who are like, I don’t have all these people you have. Does this apply to me? The answer is absolutely, yes. Right. So right now, if you are the consulting attorney and your your secretary is the one handling intake for your office, you two comprise the sales department. You need to be stopping and having a moment with sales. Right. And you can combine different departments together depending on what they are like. Some things naturally fit together like sales and marketing.
Allison Williams: [00:17:34] So you can also, depending on how much of your revenue comes in through sales versus how much comes in through recurring payments of your clients, you can also combine collections and finance with this meeting. So many, many moons ago, I created a meeting in my office that I recommend to our clients called the MICS meeting. MICS Stands for M – I – C – S as in sam. Marketing, intake collections and sales. And the MICS meeting happens once a week and we cover how many leads did we get and are our leads consistent with where they need to be. Do they need to be higher. Are they or is it too much? Are the leads good leads? Are we having the right communications with our marketing company about our leads? And then we talk about our our sales. How many new clients did we generate from the leads that we have? What is the conversion rate? Is the conversion rate holding steady? Is it going up? Is it going down? Why do we believe that is? So part of that is about personal responsibility for the salesperson. But part of that can also be that all of a sudden every person that’s being referred to the office believes that they’re going to get a free consultation, even though they’re they’re not. And it could be because some old landing page has the word free on it and it was never corrected. So you can find that out by issue spotting.
Allison Williams: [00:18:57] But sometimes it’s that there’s just a miscommunication being set in the intake process. So that could be that the intake professional doesn’t have the right information or is not stating things clearly enough. So there needs to be a training issue. Right. Then we talk about marketing, right. Marketing includes what are we doing with our website? What is our social media presence like? How many people are calling the office that comes that came from our various different marketing channels? Are we getting enough in from personal referrals or are we getting enough in through online referrals? So a lot of the, a lot of the things that happen at this MICS meeting is really issue spotting and asking intelligent questions so that we can improve performance. Right, but however you have the meeting, whether you break it up into you and your marketing assistant or having a meeting once a week or you and your sales team are having a meeting once a week. Or you and your finance manager is having a meeting once a week. You need to stop and look at all of these divisions of your company at least once a week. And this is about intentionality. This is about how do we grow a business? Well, we grow a business by applying the correct law of cause and effect, and making sure that we’re doing the things that are necessary in order to drive in lead flow, in order to increase the number of people that are becoming clients at the rate that we want, i.e. at the at the pay rates at the dollar amount that we’re going to charge them that we desire.
Allison Williams: [00:20:32] And if that’s not happening now, it’s your opportunity to stop, ask questions, issues and solve problems consistently every week instead of what tends to happen, which is over the course of time, you’re like, oh my God, that feels like there’s less money in the bank account. Let me look. Oh crap. I generated ten thousand dollars less this month than usual, and it was five thousand dollars less the month before than usual. What happened? And now your fifteen thousand dollars in the hole and you’re saying I don’t know what happened. Right? Now I, now I don’t know if I need to hire a new person or if I need to change his or her script, or if I need to speak to my marketing company about the leads coming in or if I need to get better at selling. I don’t know where the problem is because I haven’t approached it from the perspective of being intentional about driving behavior forward. So that’s really what these meetings are about. All of your meetings that matter are about talking to the right people in the right way to accomplish the goals of your business. All right, everyone, I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And this week’s episode has been dedicated to meetings that matter. I’ll see you on the next episode.
Allison Williams: [00:22:01] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement free Facebook group. There, you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firm and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
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00:05:37 (31 Seconds)
People who are members of the team can be just as strong an incentive, if not an even stronger incentive for a person to stay, than whatever lack of management, skill and prowess that you may have at this time as you’re growing and learning. So there are three strategies I want to give you. Three meetings that you need to have in order to make sure that you are preventing problems in the future and at the same time cohesively building your office culture.
00:14:34 (27 Seconds)
Problem solving together without blame. Right. So this is very, very important. Typically, when you bring the whole firm together, you do not want to start asking questions of people who screwed up the such and such. And how is this going to get better in the future? You want problem solving to be from a place of how are we all going to be in this together? Right. How are we going to make this better? How are we going to solve this issue? And typically, these would be issues where there isn’t an identifiable problem person. Right?