If you are serious about making your firm better, next time you are thinking about a law firm retreat, stop. Cancel (or postpone) your lawyer’s retreat and spend your money on a staff retreat instead.
Here are seven reasons you should consider a staff retreat this year:
1. Your staff know how your firm works better than you do. You know how your firm is supposed to work. They know how it actually works. They observe, notice and understand the little things that you may overlook. Unlocking their creativity will give you dozens (if not hundreds) of practical ideas to make your firm work better.
2. Your staff doesn’t know what your lawyers know, but they know what your lawyers should know. If you wanted to improve the efficiency of your firms lawyers by training them to do one thing better, what would it be? You might think a seminar on “rainmaking” will improve your firm’s bottom line. The staff might suggest “copier training” instead — and they’d probably be right.
3. Your staff knows how to save you money. Every single person on your staff has at least three ways to save you $100 each month. Whether you want to reduce your overhead or prioritize your technology spending, your staff will give you better ideas than your attorneys will.
4. Your clients don’t act like clients around your staff. When “on the clock,” your clients act like clients. When talking to your receptionist, secretary or paralegal, your clients act like people. Your staff know better than you what your clients hate about your firm. Ask them nicely and they’ll tell you.
5. Your staff are your best source for competitive intelligence. Want to know what your competitors are up to? Ask your staff. They talk with their peers at other firms, and they know what’s happening in your slice of the legal market. They also know (probably before you) when and why your clients won’t pay their bills.
6. Your staff can help you say no. Your staff know which clients don’t deserve your firm’s work, and which ones you should fire. They also know the least talented and productive members of your firm, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.
7. Your staff is cheap. Well, not really “cheap,” but compared to the hourly billing rates for a day of the firm’s attorneys’ time, a day-long staff retreat is a bargain. The staff probably doesn’t expect four days in Maui, either.
The most important reason to do a staff retreat, however, is that your staff will feel great knowing you value their ideas. The single most effective way to engage your employees and make them feel good about working for you is to listen to them — and asking them to help your firm solve its most pressing challenges is a tremendous way to do it.
One important key: whether you hire LexThink or someone else, you absolutely should not facilitate this one by yourself. Keep lawyers out of the room if you want your staff to speak freely. You’ll be rewarded with their candor.
And when they get back to the office, make sure they each have their own set of business cards. If you value them, there’s no better way to show it, than by allowing them to be ambassadors for your firm.