For lawyers, time is money. If your firm isn’t running meetings efficiently, you are losing valuable hours and you’re likely frustrating your team and even your clients in the process. Try these tactics for running meetings that are effective and efficient.

Set a meeting agenda

Create and distribute an agenda before the meeting and follow it faithfully. Designate one person on your team who will be responsible for drafting the agenda and then guiding the group through the discussion, making sure that the conversation does not stray off topic. For client meetings, be sure to send the agenda beforehand via email. If you’re a Smokeball user, your emailed agenda will get organized along with all other communication and files related to that matter, so you’ll be able to find it easily when you need to reference it in the future.

Stick to strict time limits

Decide beforehand what time the meeting will end, and plan to stop precisely at the stated time (if not before). Enforcing these strict boundaries for your meetings is crucial; if you let a few meetings run over, you will soon find that most do, and your whole schedule will get off-track. Keep an eye on the time during each meeting to make sure that you are moving through the agenda at an appropriate pace. You don’t want to rush through the agenda and miss the opportunity for important discussions, but keeping everyone focused on the most important topics is crucial.

Build in time for discussion

When planning a meeting, it’s important to include ample time for conversation and questions. By building this time into your agenda, you will be able to keep the meeting on track without cutting off important team contributions. Set aside 5-10 minutes at the end of each meeting to clearly lay out next steps and make sure your team has accomplished everything they planned in the meeting.

Follow-up immediately

Keep the momentum going after an effective meeting by sending out a list of action items immediately upon its conclusion. Designate someone to take detailed notes during the meeting and then document next steps for all parties in a followup report. This report will keep everyone on track with relevant action items and allow you to accomplish more between meetings.

Well-run meetings can have a major impact on your firm’s productivity and bottom line. Thoughtful meeting management can transform a tedious feature of office life into an effective tool for collaboration.