These days, access to information when you need it is critical. Clients today expect answers far more quickly than they did in the past. The instantaneous communication and dissemination of information made possible by the internet fuels this expectation, adding more pressure to lawyers to comply and provide immediate answers to their clients’ inquiries.
That’s why streamlined internal law firm communication is critical. Lawyers need to be able to obtain the information that they need, when they need it. Written memos and documents can sometimes fill the gap, but oftentimes, people are the only ones who can provide the required facts. Obtaining information from others as efficiently as possible is one of the keys to reducing unnecessary – and extended – interruptions of your workflow.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Are you guilty of inefficient communication or are you interacting as effectively as possible with your colleagues and team members? If you’re not sure whether you’re wasting time with ineffective communication, here are some tips to get you on the right path.
Communicate with purpose
First and foremost, it’s important to know what you don’t know. Determine exactly what it is that you don’t know – that way you’ll be able to more accurately request the exact piece of information that you need. In other words, communicate with purpose. Make sure that the person you’re reaching out to is able to understand exactly what you’d like to know and why you need that information.
As Allison Shields recently explained in a guest blog post, by ascertaining the outcome you hope to achieve as a result of the communication, you’ll be able to more effectively control and streamline your interaction:
The purpose of the communication or the outcome you expect to achieve as a result will often dictate your next steps and how you approach the communication, including to whom the communication should be directed, what information must be included, and the timing, method and tone of the communication.
Once you’ve determined why you’re reaching out to someone, the next step is to choose the most efficient method for obtaining the information you’re seeking. One option is to hold a face-to-face meeting – but only do so when absolutely necessary.
Hold meetings only when necessary
In-person meetings are sometimes necessary, and in some cases, can be a very effective. Obviously, meetings shouldn’t be eliminated entirely, just used sparingly. This is because, as Jared Correia discussed in a recent guest blog post, meetings play an important role in law firms:
(M)eetings are a necessary evil of business management. It pays (literally) when everyone is on the same page, looking after reaching the same goals. Even with a diversified workforce, it does help to host semi-regular in-person meetings, so that outside team members don’t feel isolated, and so that everyone can contribute. A reduction of keyboard courage, and an injection of face-to-face conversation is welcome from time to time.
Of course, meetings can also get the best of us. If not managed well, they can oftentimes take up incredible amounts of time out that could be better spent on other tasks. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you’ve clearly identified and shared the reason for the meeting with all participants. And then, during the meeting, take steps to keep everyone focused and on point the entire time. The more quickly information is disseminated, the faster everyone can get back to work.
Use secure portals for communication instead of email
And last, but not least, ensure that your law firm is utilizing technology designed to simplify the communication process. That way, information can be easily obtained and shared, and unnecessary and time consuming in-person meetings can be avoided.
Email used to be the best way to share information electronically, but that’s no longer the case. In 2018, email isn’t the most efficient – or the most secure – way to communicate. As Jared Correia recently pointed out, email has gone the way of the dinosaur, and for good reason:
Generally speaking, an open email system is distracting as it relates to in-office tasks, especially as there remains a significant portion of received email that is extraneous….In the modern law firm environment, then, you’re more likely to adopt management systems, with internal communications, and/or adopt a private communication module for staff, in order to reduce the time you spend in traditional email…
In other words, communications portals built into law practice management software are the most efficient – and secure – way to communicate within your law firm. With online portals you can communicate and share case-related information all in one convenient and secure location. The cumbersome back and forth process of unsecure, threaded emails is a thing of the past, and is instead replaced by the ability to securely communicate in an encrypted, controlled online environment.
So if your law firm hasn’t switched to online portals for internal firm communications, maybe now’s the time to make the transition. 2019 is just around the corner. It’s a great time to reassess your law firm’s internal communications methods and tools and implement more efficient processes in the new year. The tips in this post are a great starting point. And for even more guidance, make sure to download this free ebook: “Fixing the Communication Problem in Your Law Firm.”