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The cost per hour of meetings in law departments, and related comments

An article that criticizes the rigidity and wastefulness of forced hourlong sit-down meetings appears in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, June 11, 2012 at 51. Almost by definition, one hour allows too much time for the issue at hand or it cuts off discussion and deliberation – it is rigid. Often, much of the time what is being discussed has little value to one or more of the attendees, or the meeting is poorly structured, or the right people are neither present nor prepared – the meeting is wasteful. Regularly scheduled meetings exacerbate both drawbacks.

For law departments, some of the ideas in the article could be usefully implemented. Like cc’s on e-mails, limit how many people can be invited to a meeting. Pick a day where no one schedules meetings (like the e-mail free days). Use software that helps organize and supplement meetings. Flex the duration of meetings; have attendees stand for a portion. Always set agendas in proportion to the importance of a project and always end with specific to-do’s for attendees.

Finally, for the cost ticking away, project a small under the clock that shows the cost per hour to the company of the meeting. If a law department knows that its fully-loaded cost per lawyer hour is $210, it would not be hard to calculate the accumulated cost every 15 minutes based on who is in the room.