We are a thirteen attorney law firm in San Diego with four equity partners, three income partners, and six associates. We are a business litigation firm and we are in first generation. The four equity partners founded the firm and manage the firm. A few years ago we held our first retreat. Everyone enjoyed the experience but when it was all said and done nothing changed – no decisions made during the retreat were implemented – and many feel that the retreat was a waste of time. There has been some recent discussions of holding another retreat and several partners feel that we should not due to our failure to make any changes whatsoever. Do you have any suggestions?


This is a common problem that many law firms experience – especially the retreat was their first retreat. You need to be sure that you come away from the retreat with a specific plan for follow-up action on every problem discussed. If you decide to start a telling search to fill a lawyer, paralegal, or staff position, or if you have assigned several attorneys or staff members to work further on a specific problem and to report the results, it is important that the individual assignments and target dates for reporting and completion be made explicit. Determination of this kind should be recorded and made part of the minutes of the retreat. Further, a system of follow-through meetings to assess progress is advised, in order to maintain momentum achieved at the retreat. Many firms benefit considerably by incorporating specific retreat decisions into a 12 month growth plan and schedule of activities to meet firm objectives. Planning of this kind typically results in significant firm progress, even though initial resistance to these efforts by some firm members may be substantial.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC



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