“Have you considered a firm retreat?”
This is a question we discuss with many of our clients. Understandably, while many lawyers value the benefit of time spent on developing a Firm’s intellectual capital and operational effectiveness in a retreat, in an industry where the commodity is the billable hour, most leaders will decline the chance to plan one for one primary reason: COST.
And while there is no question that a firm retreat requires a financial investment as well as an investment of time that would have otherwise been billable, there are very real reasons to invest the resources in a firm retreat that will result in tangible benefits for your firm long term.
A retreat can sound intimidating. Time management probably does not. One of the biggest tenants of time management is to identify the important things and focus on them with an intent to address them. That is what a retreat does – it brings time management to the most important things in your firm.
A retreat can be anything you want or need it to be. Through a diligently planned agenda, your firm can:
• Initiate or Manage Change
Time away from the demands of day to day work can allow your team to focus on a big initiative – new practice area, new office, financial goal setting – and keep everyone on the same page at the same time, while also providing a forum for everyone to have a voice.
• Build Camaraderie
We do not have to be best friends with the people we work with, but the ability to get along easily lends itself to a more efficient and effective workplace. Even a casual comfort with one’s peers can also increase workplace satisfaction that can lead to higher retention. Simply spending time together at a retreat, perhaps also facilitated by group exercises, can directly lead to this camaraderie and its benefits.
• Feed Firm Knowledge
Getting to know one another through intentional time or activity together not only builds camaraderie, it also allows peers to get to know one another’s skill sets, areas of focus and areas of strength. Imagine if a junior attorney knew every Partner in your firm and was able to quickly get an answer from a subject matter expert for a question based on the type of case. Retreats build those connections and reduce the time spent back at the office saying “do we know anyone who can….?”
• Professional Development
Retreats can also provide dedicated, intentional continuing education on a topic of your choosing or of the firm’s need. Again, because you’re all away from the office, there’s no distraction of ringing phones or pressing meetings, so your team can focus more directly on the subject matter, and the subject matter can be tailored exactly to what your group needs to hear and learn. You can even hold an inter-firm panel discussion to grow practice areas and service delivery concepts.
• Team Health / Employee Recognition
This is the type of stuff many think of when they hear the word “retreat.” How many times have you heard someone say in jest “do we have to do a trust fall?” We’ve heard it a lot. But a retreat can provide growth in your overall team health, or in rewarding your team for their hard work. And it doesn’t have to include trust falls. It can be gifts, a cocktail hour, or perhaps choosing a location for your retreat that is out of the norm for those at your firm.
As you can see, a firm retreat is a very adaptable tool that can do a lot of different things. If your interest has been piqued, it’s important to remember that what makes a retreat successful is so much more than the time your team spends together. Here are some important keys to success:
• Identify the objectives and anticipated outcomes you have for your retreat
• Dedicate time to developing a retreat agenda, budget, event logistics, and perhaps finding a facilitator
• Remember that you can’t remake the world at a retreat, good things will happen during your time together, but they won’t stick unless you make them
• Measure yourself against the anticipated outcomes you've defined – at the end of the retreat, did you do what you set out to do?
• Follow up! For any action item or new process, or new idea, be sure that you (or your facilitator) has made accountability a primary focus to ensure that what you said would happen next, does, in fact, happen
• Collect feedback – what did your team like? What did they not like? What was of benefit? Use that information to plan for your next time together.
Retreats can be a launching pad for firms to grow to the next level in a variety of ways – knowledge, efficiency, growth, camaraderie. Execute them properly and the benefits should follow.
If you’d like to learn more about how retreats can jump start your practice, or learn how Affinity can help you execute your next retreat, don’t hesitate to contact us and/or consider joining our upcoming FREE 30-minute webinar: “Why Retreat? Retreat to Advance” on April 7th at 1PM ET.