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Partnership Retreats -- 6 Common Mistakes
Law Practice Management Magazine -- July 29, 2003
Six ways to ensure your next retreat won't be memorable and productive. To make the most of your retreats, avoid the common mistakes outlined below:
Mistake # 1: Attempting to deal with too many topics. Successful retreats focus on one or two issues a day, at the most. Consider breaking your agenda into modules, each with three sections: presentation of best practices, group discussion, and action steps. Then, if possible, link the modules by an overarching theme, such as growth, client satisfaction, associate retention, etc.
Mistake # 2: Overlooking the little things. Consider: Is the location conducive to our needs? Is the retreat a working session or will there be recreation? Are spouses invited? Most important, is there opportunity to get together socially? Remember, activities like golf, cocktails, dinners, and schmoozing by the pool can be just as important to the success of the retreat as its content and achievement of goals.
Mistake # 3: Building the agenda in a vacuum. To assure buy-in and participation, send a questionnaire to all partners that aims to identify the theme and key issues to cover at the retreat. To clarify these objectives at the retreat, remind participants how the agenda was developed and go around the room (if there are no more than 20 participants) or ask for volunteers to define their expectations.
Mistake # 4: Hiring a subject expert or consultant who is inexperienced in law firm retreat management. Remember, it's your retreat. The consultant's role is to set the stage with knowledge, apply his or her expertise to the firm, and then encourage and manage discussion. Successful retreats encourage participation, not lectures.
Mistake # 5: Indulging in information overload. The longer you go, the more likely participants will be to go through the motions, agree with others just for the sake of agreement, and furtively check their watches or cell phones. Key: Break up sessions into manageable segments, or prepare to end the meeting early even if goals are not met and next steps haven't been identified.
Mistake # 6: Leaving partners without a specific plan of action. The best retreats occur when a firm has clearly defined, agreed upon, manageable goals. In the best case scenario, participants should be able to clearly articulate the strategies and change items that were developed at the retreat, their role in the process, and the next steps to take.
Source: Law Practice Management Magazine, published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section (Chicago; 800-285-2221; www.abanet.org/lpms/home)