Best Practice: Law Firm Retreats – Including Key Staff Members
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. I am a partner in a 45-lawyer firm in Memphis and a member on the firm’s executive committee. We are planning on having a two-day planning retreat in June of this year. We have had these retreats every year for the past six years. Past retreats have only included attorneys. This year we are considering including staff members. We would appreciate your thoughts as to whether this is a good idea.
A. A firm invites all key staff to a retreat when they can play a major role in identifying problems and developing solutions. A firm retreat is an excellent forum if the partners or management have determined that individuals at different levels within the firm are having communication problems – for example – where communication is inadequate between:
- Equity partners and non-equity partners
- Partners and associates
- Attorneys and staff
Having these individuals participate in solving their own communication problems at the retreat usually produces better results than those obtained when the partners hand down orders that may not deal with the real issues. Staff participation can help identify problems, involve more firm members after the retreat in the implementation of solutions, and improve buy in.
As a rule, it is very productive to include individuals from non-professional or non-management levels at a retreat when they are eager to be involved in problem-solving efforts on a day to day basis.
A retreat solely for partners at the senior level is conducted to review firm progress and to deal specifically with financial, compensation, conflict between partners, growth planning, business development, or unique problems with staff members.
Some firms hold separate meetings for each level of staff in addition to combined meetings with attorneys.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, (www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics and author of The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning published by the ABA. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.