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Three Things to Do Before Ending the Meeting

By Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

There’s always someone in the crowd who insists, “This meeting is a waste of time and money!” And another who puts pen to paper to add up hourly rates before pronouncing just how much money the meeting has wasted (never mind how much money is wasted by that silly exercise).

It’s true. A lot of good time is wasted by meetings that pretend actual work is being done. On the other hand, a good face-to-face meeting can resolve a lot of miscommunication and quickly set up your group to make things happen in a way no multi-player email circus ever will.

Bar the Door, Katie!

Once you’ve had a good meeting — one with a simple agenda, effective information sharing, good outcomes, hard decisions — you want to ensure you don’t lose ground. Here are three key things you must do before anyone opens the door to leave.

1. Review Key Decisions

Too often, participants in a decision can walk away like the blind men and the elephant, with their own unique understandings of which way the decision went. It’s easy to avoid speaking the hard truth about what has been decided out of fear that some people in the room will re-open the wound upon realizing they just lost the game. Too bad. You can deal with them now or you can deal with them later — when it’s worse.

Just walk down the list of agenda items, briefly describing the decision in each case.

  • Cybersecurity insurance: We’ve selected proposal three.
  • Law school capital fund: We’ll donate $5,000 this month and $3,000 in June.
  • Contingency fees: All future clients must first be evaluated by Rosemary.
  • Firm retreat: Not until fall.

2. Identify Action Items and Clarify Assignments

Some of those key decisions, as well as other items discussed, will require specific actions to be taken. Don’t leave room for those assignments to be foggy — review them and make certain the people assigned understand and have what they need before heading off to accomplish the tasks. You may even want to ask if they need anything (advice, information, assistance) from anyone in the room, too. Manage everyone’s expectations by identifying a deadline for completion. For example:

  • Speak with the receptionist about the new waiting policy: Randy (5/7)
  • Identify Word training options for lawyers: Jed with Lucy’s help (6/1)
  • Communicate decision to insurance broker: Serena (5/9)
  • Review possible contingency fee clients: Rosemary (ongoing)
  • Identify dates and possible locations for retreat: Keith (next meeting)

3. Determine If There Will Be a Next Meeting and, If So, Schedule It

While everyone is in the same room, agree to the day and time of the next meeting. (That way, no one can say they didn’t hear about it.) Specify the location, time and to whom agenda items should be given in advance of that meeting.

It’s OK to not schedule the next meeting if none is necessary — if this is the end of the group’s work together or further meetings are to be on an as-needed basis. Don’t schedule a meeting just to schedule a meeting!

Illustration ©

Categories: Communications Skills, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm People Management
Originally published May 5, 2016
Last updated November 5, 2023
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Merrilyn Astin Tarlton Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

Merrilyn is the author of “Getting Clients: For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over.” She has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, an LMA Hall of Fame inductee, and a past President of the College of Law Practice Management. Merrilyn was a founding partner of Attorney at Work. 

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