Whether your next law firm retreat takes place at a tropical location or in the firm’s conference room, there are several things to keep in mind to make it productive, useful and fun. Here are my Ten “Rules” for law firm retreats. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Enjoy!
1. When planning a retreat, the most important voice at the table should belong to your best clients. Ask them what you need to improve upon in the coming year, and invite them if you dare.
2. At a good retreat, firm management spends as much time listening to the lawyers as they do talking to them. At a great retreat, that ratio is closer to 3:1.
3. It is far more important for attorneys to think together at your next firm retreat than it is for them to golf together.
4. If you don’t make time for lawyers to improve your firm during the retreat, they’re less likely to take time to improve your firm when the retreat is done.
5. In big firms, the first thing you should teach lawyers is one another’s names. Familiarity builds collegiality. Lawyers won’t care what their colleagues do until they know who they are.
6. “Networking” cocktail parties don’t encourage firm-wide collaboration as much as they encourage firm-wide inebriation.
7. If the firm retreat is the only time lawyers talk about marketing, it will be the only time they think about marketing. Same goes for client service.
8. Your staff knows more about how to serve your clients well than your associates do. Bring them along, value their opinions and act on their suggestions. You’ll find that the cost of their attendance is far lower than the cost of their absence.
9. The three questions every lawyer should be able to answer after a retreat are: “What can I do better?” “Who should I know better?” and “Why should I be better?”
10. The two costliest items at any firm retreat are the time and attention of the attendees. Use them wisely.