Calm. Reflection. Space. Words that lend themselves to a description of life in a typical law firm these days. What’s that? They don’t you say? Hmmmmm, you may have a point. As the pace of business increases, and clients (as customers do in most areas of life these days) continue to seek “more for less”, it’s increasingly difficult to find the time to pause.
Arguably this is never more important than at the end of a deal or project. Project debriefs have tremendous value on so many levels. Firstly, if they include the client and are properly managed, they can provide an opportunity to assess team performance away from the pressure of getting the work completed. What worked well and what could have been better? How was communication between the respective teams? How did document management work? What does this mean for future deals? This can be a great relationship builder, particularly if it can be done soon after the completion of the project, when participants are basking in the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes after an intense period of working in finished (and sleep deficits can be addressed!).
The next area of opportunity is within the firm itself. What has been learnt about doing deals of that type? How can we do them better next time? What were our costs and how did they stack up against forecast? Can we get a reference from the client to use for business development? Can we publicise our involvement and use for a directory submission? Have we gained any new know-how, and if so can we capture it? Do we need to update our precedents or other documents?
Finally, how about reflection on an individual level. How did I perform? What did I do well, and what could I have done better? What about my relationships with my colleagues; has the project strengthened or damaged any of them? Did the project impact my life outside the firm (e.g. anniversary or birthday missed?)? What have I learnt from a technical and commercial perspective? Do I need to update my CV as a result? Do I want to do more deals like that, or has it made me want to move away from that type of work?
The challenge with all these is of course finding the time, especially in those firms still subservient to the all powerful hourly rate and chargeable targets (where this type of exercise will be marked with the dreaded “non-chargeable” code). However, I really believe that these debrief and reflection activities can provide real long term performance improvements for a relatively modest time investment. So next time you finish a deal, go grab a cushion, fold your legs up, and mark your timesheet “meditating”….
Update: Interesting comment and link on a similar topic here: http://www.lawdepartmentmanagementblog.com/law_department_management/2010/02/intriguing-idea-based-on-sabine-chalmers-post-mortem-competitions-by-law-firms.html