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February 05, 2013

Redux on Cross-Border Work: The Sacred, No-Excuses Weekly Phone Call.

About 15 years ago, our firm started the practice of weekly phone conferences for lengthy but intense projects where things generally happen every week. In a nutshell, the client representative, lawyers at our firm and any other key players in a case or project set aside a weekly "sacred time"--as one GC has dubbed it--for a phone conference: weekly, same day, same time and observed by all.

The meetings are intended to be 30 minutes tops (if possible). You need to pick a relatively quiet off-track time when disturbances are at a minimum. The time that has worked best for us has been between 7:30 AM and 9:30 AM EST on Fridays. (If you live on the West coast, though, you may be getting up around 4 or 4:30 AM--but you get a break if you're in South America or Europe).

And they are missed or canceled only for the most compelling reasons: generally, important family priorities and religious holidays (Wicca excluded, usually). Vacations, trips to Europe, Asia, South America, head colds, bad traffic, hangovers and my-dog-ate-my-draft-amended counterclaim won't cut it.


We still have three ongoing Friday meetings--each about two years old and one of them likely to continue for at least another year. This simple institution has worked very well for us--and clients appreciate it because they can rely on it. Key people are available. Always.

The longest running weekly meeting we had was three-and-a-half years for a particularly contentious off-again on-again arbitration on an ongoing construction project involving a Germany-based client and U.S. players from 4 to 6 states in our camp alone. Our 7:45 AM meeting kept people focused, informed, on the same page and even on good terms when they otherwise might not have been. Great new ideas--plus resolving loose ends more quickly.

The "sacred" weekly meeting is a very good tool for cases with lots of players and/or consultants. Even if there is nothing to report, people touch base and re-bond so they can at least keep heading in the same direction. In short, it's an effective way to regularly catch up and share information on bigger, more complicated or protracted projects.

Posted by JD Hull at February 5, 2013 11:59 PM


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