Chapter 11 Running efficient and effective office meetings

Client interviews and meetings


While initially you may have limited opportunities to change how meetings are run, it is nevertheless worth spending some time considering how meetings could be run most effectively, simply because meetings constitute such a considerable part of a lawyer’s day. Lawyers will have external meetings (with clients, see and internal meetings (with their colleagues, see and below).

Internal meetings

It will be probably be a while before you attend a meeting at a law firm or other professional office (although you may do so while undertaking pro bono work or on a vacation scheme or other work experience). However, as mentioned in Chapter 16 in the context of team-working, the arrival of alternative business structures (see Chapters 6 and 20) means that law firms are increasingly looking to recruit people who can bring business acumen into the office. If you are interested in this area, it is worthwhile considering how meetings can be run effectively while maximising profit.

While most businesses accept that external meetings should be run as efficiently as possible, typically internal meetings can be a significant source of frustration. It is a common complaint that businesses do not prioritise internal meetings, and law firms are no exception. While in theory they may appreciate that internal meetings should be on an equal footing with external meetings, it is not uncommon to witness lawyers who turn up late, allow themselves to be distracted and interrupted by their smartphones throughout the meeting, then leave early. Meetings can stray far away from the business they were called to discuss, or they may be called out of habit even though there is nothing to discuss. Internal meetings may fall into a regular pattern where each person repeats the same frustrating behaviour, be it one dominating voice, or someone complaining about the same old issue over and over again without suggesting any workable solution.

These issues may be familiar to you from meetings you have attended to date. However, when you factor in the cost of internal meetings in a law firm (by multiplying the time taken by their hourly salary, or indeed their hourly charge-out rate), it becomes clear that they are so expensive that professionals in practice can ill afford to run them as they do.

Strategies to avoid some of these problems (and this could be the kind of question you might be asked in a law firm interview) include:

  • circulating an agenda in advance,
  • establishing a practice of starting the meetings on time,
  • nominating someone to chair the meeting to keep it focused and running to time, and
  • restricting any record of the meeting to identifying the action required rather than recording exactly what everyone said.

More creative ideas include conducting meetings with everyone standing up (to prevent meetings from running on too long) and imposing a time limit on contributions.

Clearly these ideas need to be implemented by someone with the power to force change; however as a student and a junior lawyer you can start as you mean to go on, develop your skills, and make a very good impression by thinking about how to make any meetings under your control (such as those of any club or society, or to organise the cake sale) run as efficiently as possible. Bear in mind, too, the ability to meet virtually online (see, which became widely used during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. This article is one of many freely available articles which explores the possibilities of remote working facilitated by technology. The article by Stanley in Chapter 11 Further Reading discusses how technology is changing the way lawyers meet clients.

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