Agendas

War stories are usually about wars fought in the past, not those to be fought in the future.

Theory

The word "agenda" traditionally is used to describe a pre-established series of topics to be covered at a meeting. Colloqually the meaning has been expanded to include individual plans for the groups future.

The agenda of any meeting must consider the firm's prime directive. If the firm is an "eat what you kill" personal injury plaintiff's firm, an agenda that presumes a warm and fuzzy sharing relationship will not lead the meeting to the results intended. Agendas that fail to consider the underlying realities of the relationships of the individuals that make up the firm will not produce progress, much less results.

From the perspective of an individual charged with some element of practice development planning, the value of an agenda is related to the control of what happens at the meeting. If we use the administration / management distinction we've discussed, one of the ways the planning process gets sabotaged is by delegating the planning process to someone with only administrative authority and having the planning meeting chaired by management. Management must support the planning process if it is to chair the meeting.

There are generally two types of meetings in the planning process: those where ideas are developed and those where information is shared. In a law firm regardless of the billing paradigm, the time when everyone is gathered is usually too precious to spend reporting information. It is better to distribute written reports and use the time at the meeting with a quick "executive" summary, soliciting and responding to questions and then moving on to the "what this means / the next step" phase.

Practice

If it is "your" meeting, always consider it as an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to learn or both.

Do not use a meeting to present market or client research data or results. The data generated by any research project worth its salt are more than can be meaningfully presented in a meeting subject to the usual alternative activity and endurance limits of a group of lawyers. This is especially true if yours is a fairly large firm that provides services in numerous areas of the law. Use the meeting to introduce important conclusions supported by the data and relevant to the planning issues under consideration. For example, if your research shows that 45% of your firm's clients maintain a professional relationship with a law firm or firms other than yours, talk about what that means in terms of client cross education.

Advocates Management, Inc.
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Manitowoc, WI 54220
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