In that brief time snugly between delta and omicron, I had the opportunity to speak at a law firm retreat. Live. In-Person. With people. No masks. In a hotel. Food served. It was circa 2019 and it was so nice to put on a suit and close the Zoom app. In the March/April 2022 issue of Law Practice, I discuss The Return of Law Firm Retreats.
An argument can be made that the law firm retreat in 2022 or 2023 will look and feel a lot different from those in the past. For a myriad of reasons:
Mergers and movement of attorneys and practice groups did not stop over the last few years, meaning there are lots of people at your law firm that you’ve never actually met before. The retreat becomes the perfect venue for getting acquainted.
Of course, there are plenty of people you do know—and simply have not had the chance to see for quite a while. Many law firms have decided to create at-work models that remain almost entirely remote or more likely offer some type of hybrid model. This means seeing less of people in your own office space. A consequence of this new normal is a loss of culture and a loss of loyalty. If there is no workplace, it is hard to establish what your “culture” feels like. If your relationship with the firm and colleagues is nothing more than a series of Zoom or Teams meetings, you do not establish the same type of allegiance to the people or to the place. Do you have the same sense of loyalty to someone that has never been more than an image on a screen? No. Thus the added importance of using a retreat setting to correct both of those issues.
There are other components of a law firm retreat that are more important than ever. The cross-sell. Client service teams. Understanding what each office and each practice does, and for whom? When was the last time you sent a key client to an attorney you did not know—internally or externally? There needs to be those opportunities to bond. Thus the retreat.
A 2022-23 retreat also needs to be sensitive to issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion. You must make sure there are no “power imbalances” or related (often alcohol-fueled) behavior that lands the firm in hot water. You need to be PC. Don’t let the retreat be a story you’d rather not tell.
I love presenting at law firm retreats. You get to see and meet everyone in a more relaxed atmosphere than if I was giving a talk in a conference room. There is usually a mix of education and fun. Throw in a nice venue, good meals, some swag—what’s not to like?
If you do a law firm retreat right, it should be seen by the attorneys as an enjoyable venture not an obligation. But the time has certainly come—the law firm retreat is back. If your firm needs help with your next retreat, give me a shout.