Posted by: johnocunningham | June 25, 2015

PR Leader to Law Firms: “Talk Amongst Yourselves”

An article caught my attention this past week on Bloomberg BNA, which was entitled “Law Firms Must Spend More Time Talking to Themselves.”

This piece by Kathy Cripps, the president of a trade association for public relations firms, hit on a few key points about the need for better internal communication within law firms:

  1. Poor internal communication – about culture, mission, values, strategy and people – leads to poor lateral integration, which may explain why so many lateral hires at law firms are failures.
  2. Poor internal communication often results in botched mergers with and acquisitions of other firms for similar reasons.
  3. To improve internal communications, you need a strategy that includes communication via firm meetings, department meetings, publications and social events.

I would add that internal communications, properly done, can enhance the productivity and the job satisfaction of every single person in the firm. Studies have shown that an employee who is told to perform a series of tasks without being told why is less productive than one who has a sense of how his or her task fits into a broader mission and purpose. As one of my former CEO bosses once said: “A stone cutter who is told to cut stones every day all day soon gets tired. But a stone cutter who is told that he is creating the building blocks for a glorious new church works with energy and purpose.”

When employees know the mission, purpose and strategy of the organization, they are generally more eager to contribute and more energized around the shared objectives of the larger team. When they are left in the dark, or told only what their task is for the day, they are disengaged from the start.

No sports team would dream of telling every player only his piece of a given play without sharing the roles of the other players, as well as the anticipated response of the competition, and the possible strategies of dealing with the opposition. In sports, in business and in law firms too, everyone has a role in team communication, and the larger organization must have a well-formulated set of communication objectives, methodologies and feedback loops.

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