When so much time and energy is spent on your law firm’s external communication such as advertising, marketing and public relations, it can be easy to put internal communication on the back burner. However, internal communication deserves just as much – or more – of your attention. There are many different definitions out there and while there’s not just one correct answer, Rachel Miller of All Things IC offers a simple explanation to define internal communications: “The way a company interacts with its people and they interact with it.” Internal communications executed well can actually bolster your external communications, but in order to do this you’ll need an effective strategy in place.
Internal Communication and Reputation Management
During the era of Facebook, Google and Yelp reviews, managing your law firm’s reputation is of the utmost importance. People are reading reviews before they choose a restaurant to dine or a movie to watch, so they’re certainly reading reviews before they select a law firm to represent them. Your law firm’s internal communication strategy is directly tied to reputation management. From attorneys and paralegals to secretaries and bookkeepers, every member of your firm is a brand ambassador, and if you don’t have a positive internal culture, it can be difficult to improve your public image.
Employees are the face of your firm, and they represent it on a daily basis. Keeping everyone in the loop on what’s happening in and around your firm will go a long way toward protecting your reputation. Members of your team should be the first to know about what’s happening with the firm – whether it be good news or bad news. For example, if your firm is hosting a webinar with a local business share it with the entire office. You never know where a new client could come from, so your attorneys and staff need to be equipped with any relevant information to accurately describe and promote your firm. Showing your employees that you value internal communications will build trust and improve morale for everyone in your firm, which in turn will radiate to the audience of prospective clients that you are trying to reach.
Internal Communication and Teamwork
At times, it may seem as though your law firm is a group of individuals rather than a team. Everyone is busy with their own work and it can be easy for attorneys to stay in their office for hours at a time while working on a case. However, working together can reduce stress and increase productivity for every member of your firm, and effective internal communication directly correlates with improved teamwork. People are more likely to work well with someone they know and relate to (think back to when you got to select partners for a group project in school). Consider exercises like a Caliper Profile or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which will reveal the personality types of everyone at your firm and how they work with others.
Even something as simple as an outing or retreat for your firm can improve internal communication and teamwork. With constant pressure to finish a case or other assignment, it’s not always easy for members of your firm to get to know each other at the office. Encouraging employee engagement will not only invoke better working relationships, but it could also uncover new business leads that you never would have known about otherwise. Arranging an outing with your firm is a great way to drive organic conversations, which will make it easier to determine everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and develop positive internal communications.
Developing an Internal Communication Plan
Just like you do for external communication, you need a plan for your internal communication to achieve consistency and long-term results. In a nutshell, the plan for your law firm should include a detailed analysis of where you are now, where you want to be and how you will get there. In the beginning, it’s important to assess where you are because if you’ve had any success as a firm, chances are you’ve done something right with your internal communications and don’t necessarily need to start from scratch. Determining where your firm wants to be is the most critical aspect of your plan. It’s the entire reason you are undergoing this process, so get specific on what you want to accomplish rather than just stating that you want to “improve.” There are some key components you’ll want to consider:
- What’s the current culture of your firm?
- What are your communication goals?
- What do you want to convey to your internal audience?
- How will you communicate (strategy, tactics and channels)
- When is the best time to share internal messaging?
- How will you measure success of your communications?
How you’ll get there is entirely up to you. You know the ins and outs of your law firm better than anyone, so you have the best understanding of what practices will generate success. If you’re unsure, consider a survey or questionnaire for the members of your firm. This will allow you to gain insight into what they want, and an internal communication plan that includes input from the members of your firm will instantly start on the track to success. Over time, you’ll need to measure what worked and what didn’t work. If it worked, then you can include it in the next plan, but don’t get discouraged if something missed the mark. Internal communication plans are fluid, and there’s always room for growth and improvement for your firm.
Resources to Facilitate Internal Communication
If you don’t currently know how to improve internal communication at your firm, you’re in luck because there are a number of different outlets to help you achieve your goal. An intranet, which is a network that is designed exclusively for sharing information within an organization, can be a great tool for internal communication. Our agency utilizes Slack, allowing us to stay up to the minute on the happenings with each of our clients as well as what each of our team members has on their plate to promote collaboration and constructive criticism. Intranets are just one of many resources you can deploy to facilitate internal communication at your firm.
Company newsletters are another option to consider for this practice. Upcoming events, new hires, current cases and anything else that’s going on at your firm can be shared in a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Social media can also be utilized for internal communication, but you need to be selective about what you are sharing. Obviously more than just members of your firm will follow you on your various social media channels, and not everything needs to be shared with that audience. Email should probably be avoided for this exercise. Your staff gets plenty of emails already; one more is likely to be ignored.