April 18, 2019 Practice Points

Four Tips for Concise Communication

Keep in short and simple, and improve communication within your office and, more importantly, with your key clients.

By Christie Finnegan

Keep it short and simple. We’ve all been in that meeting which takes twice as long as it should, simply because the person leading it doesn’t know the importance of keeping it short and simple. Communication in a law firm is often between incredibly busy people—there’s not much time to wax poetic when you’re running from a client meeting to the courthouse. These four tips will improve communication within your office and, more importantly, with your key clients.

  1. Re-establish priority and importance. Remind the person you’re speaking to why you’re speaking to them. Did they give you an assignment? Are you providing an update on an important meeting you had? A couple of examples of this would be “You asked me to . . .” and “I met with Mr. Jones and this is what I learned . . .”
  2. State the most important findings at a high level. Think of these as bullet points. They should grab attention and give a brief summary of what you need to communicate. Keep it limited to no more than four or five main points. Examples include “The three main opportunities are . . .” and “Outcomes would be, one . . .”
  3. Share details that make a difference. This is where you expand upon the headlines with pertinent information that helps the listener make a decision. “Let me share key details now about each of the three opportunities . . .” or “Would you like to know more details about the outcomes or should I continue?”
  4. Outline the next steps. Apply the information you just communicated to the bigger picture. Clearly and concisely state your recommendation, what next steps should be, or even raise other questions/concerns. “Based on this, I recommend we . . .”; “We next need to consider . . .”; and “This made me wonder if we need to . . .” are possible examples.

Teach your team these important tools, and don’t hesitate to coach your team members on being briefer when they miss the mark. This precise and to-the-point technique is an art that takes practice to effectively master, but it is sure to make you shine. Don’t underestimate the power of effective—and brief—communication.

Christie Finnegan is the marketing and fund development manager for the June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

Copyright © 2019, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).