Good communication is key if you want to help lawyers and support staff feel fulfilled and do the best job possible. But busy lawyers, focused on progressing matters or developing client relationships, can overlook the need to make this a priority. Read this list of points to consider from consultant Catherine Gasperini. (20 October 2021)
- Make sure everyone has the information they need (eg policies and technical information) or are legally entitled to (eg for health and safety or employment law).
- Understand your role – not just within your practice area, but with other teams. Think about when you can share opportunities or advice, and what you want from them.
- Use communication to help employees perform – by agreeing clear objectives, providing feedback and recognising achievements.
- Communicate regularly to build your relationship with individuals and teams. Take a personal interest in them, and take part in social events.
- Aim for open, honest two-way communication. Make yourself available, encourage employees to raise problems and suggestions, and listen.
- Plan communications: think about your objectives and break down your message into a small number of key points.
- Anticipate your audience’s attitude, current knowledge and level of interest. Choose a time when they are likely to be receptive.
- Give advance warning when appropriate – for example, if an employee will need to prepare; circulate an agenda before group meetings.
- Choose the right medium – for example, the phone for a quick discussion, email or memos for complex information or where you need a written record, an instant message (such as text message) for brief instructions, and information or your intranet for firm-wide information such as policies and news.
- Consider team meetings that include both lawyer and non-lawyer staff. This can help a sense of team effort and makes sure everyone is kept well informed.
- Follow up written communications, particularly if they cover complex issues; don’t assume signs and memos will be read and understood.
- Handle sensitive communications face-to-face.
- Use clear, appropriate language; be specific about action points, deadlines and responsibilities.
- Build trust: be positive, patient and polite; explain yourself, particularly when overriding an employee’s suggestion; and do what you say you will.
- Control discussions: stick to the agenda, and keep things brief.
- Confirm understanding and agreement; review outcomes to see whether communications have been effective.
- Practise communication skills: asking open-ended questions, listening and ensuring you understand; using positive body language.
"Make sure communication is two-way; ask open questions and listen to the answers. Investing time in comms in the short-term often nips misunderstandings in the bud, saving head-aches and heart-aches down the line." Nicola Jones, Athena Professional
"A culture of open communication and collaboration helps create the responsive and dynamic firm that today’s clients demand." Martyn Best, Document Direct