In summer 2022 ILTA published a White Paper by Allan Mørch, CEO & Founder of AskCody highlighting the administrative hassle associated with meetings. This piece was originally published in the online version of Peer to Peer ILTA's quarterly magazine Issue #2, Vol 38 starting on p. 70. but you can also get access to the full piece right here.
Managing Meetings in the Legal Field Should Not Be That Hard
Even though most legal businesses have spent years implementing new innovative tools that optimize a long range of sub processes, many in the industry still work like it was 1995 on one specific area, i.e., meeting management. The time spent and administrative hassle associated with planning and hosting meetings is therefore one of the hottest areas of optimization within the industry. In the following, you will get insight into two of the United States’ leading legal firms and their way of optimizing the handling of meetings – and the good news is that you can easily integrate their solutions.
As most people know, employees in law firms and legal services represent the company’s biggest assets – and are by far the largest item in the budget. It is therefore imperative that the use of employees’ and partners’ time is handled as efficiently and intelligently as possible. Everything related to planning, invitation and booking of meeting rooms, catering, booking of IT-equipment, cleaning and accounting of all costs is often handled in a messy flow characterized by coincidences and lack of structure - even though the meeting between legal counsel and customers should be smooth, professional, and trustworthy. However, let us first look at some demographics around the selection of a meeting room.
In reality, employees select meeting rooms that:
- They know
- Are closest to their own desk
- Have the best view
A lot of meeting rooms are thus selected for a meeting without any thought going into e.g. the number of guests or the right technical equipment for remote participants. This random booking structure often causes large meeting rooms to be occupied by very small meetings with just a few participants, and they still have to be cleaned completely even though only a fraction of the chairs have been used. This represents a massive waste of unnecessary resources and unused space every year.
Wasted Time – A Big Problem
On the fly-meetings likewise occupy many of the meeting rooms that are closest to where most people have their daily tracks. This creates time waste for the employees who actually booked the room, and most people have tried taking over a meeting room that does not feel clean and tidy because someone ”just” needed a quick room for a brief meeting. Wasted time is a big problem when law firms coordinate, plan, cancel or rearrange guests who are invited to a meeting. A process that often takes place offline and without the use of intelligent tools. Seen across the entire American legal industry that hosts millions of meetings every year, it is a massive waste of time and money.
Therefore, it makes sense to implement intelligent IT solutions for everything related to meeting management. This is what the leading American legal firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP has done across its offices in the US and the UK. They have implemented a meeting management solution from Danish AskCody which has helped optimize their entire handling of meetings. Among others, the solution gives them direct access to see all vacant meeting rooms in each of their offices; they can see what kind of technical equipment each room is fitted with, and AskCody is furthermore fully integrated with mail, admin, reception, catering, and finance.
The introduction of AskCody eases everything related to a specific meeting, and the firm can easily see which meeting rooms actually fit the meeting. In the end, this has a positive effect on cleaning, sanitation, and air purification in the meeting rooms since it is always possible to see which rooms have been used and which have not. Another positive side-effect is that you do not spend time and money cleaning rooms that have already been cleaned. Which otherwise happens surprisingly often!
The flexibility in AskCody and the direct integration with Microsoft Office outperforms our old solution, and now, we have a much easier way of connecting our attorneys across multiple locations and at the same time, we can book all of the technical equipment and everything else directly in the solution. All of our admin employees can easily do it, so our efficiency has become much higher than before, says Lucas Schnoebelen, Head of Learning & Development in Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.
Make the Most Out of Your Space
But why does it make particularly good sense to optimize the use of what is one of the biggest items in the budget (apart from salaries), i.e. office rent? While you can not cut the cost of office space entirely, you can make sure you are making the most out of the space and reduce the administrative costs, e.g., with the use of meeting management tools like AskCody.
AskCody can help a law firm with a number of things related to meeting management, among others:
- Reduce the amount of time wasted on planning meetings
- Streamline the guest check-in process by automatically sending directions, wifi login instructions, and meeting location updates
- Track how desks and meetings rooms are used to optimize and maximize the current office space
- Order AV equipment, catering, and other equipment directly from the meeting invite in Outlook
Should Not Ruffle Feathers
By streamlining the meeting management process, law firms can focus on generating profits without sacrificing client service. Exactly like Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP has done it. Across its offices in all the primary large metro areas in the US, their home office in Kansas City and at their London office, Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP went for a solution that did not "ruffle feathers" but leveraged from the already existing IT setup.
We needed something that we can turn on and where we can say: "Here's this new thing and everybody is now moving from the old system, but don't worry because AskCody is very easy to use, because it is placed directly in your Outlook, comments Lucas Schnoebelen.
Shook used another tool before implementing the AskCody platform. In reality, that tool worked for them for several years. It was simply the way they booked meetings. About five years ago, Lucas Schnoebelen and his manager initiated a process to look for a new solution. Based on the needs defined by Human Resources, one of the most critical requirements was that the new solution should integrate closely with Microsoft Outlook. And that was one of the obstacles of the past system for booking meetings and conference rooms.
We shouldn't have to go to a different solution than Microsoft Outlook to book a conference room, and the two systems never talked to each other. You went to this booking tool, and then you'd also have to go to the Outlook calendar invite and key in the room information. There was no real integration. So that was kind of one of the drivers for us saying: Let us find a new tool, says Lucas Schnoebelen.
Shook actually met AskCody for the first time at an ILTA conference.
We met with the AskCody team and had been on a webinar as well before the conference. So, we knew that we were to be looking for a solution, and I also wanted to meet the people face-to-face, get to know them, understand the resolution compared to our needs, and get a more in-depth demo of what vendors like AskCody offered, Lucas Schnoebelen remembers.
Same Experience Across Offices
Many meetings used to happen at the company headquarters. Therefore, many of the best facilities including cameras, whiteboards, catering, etc. were located there. But in the grander scheme of things, Shook wanted the future experience to be the same across all offices. And AskCody allows Shook to do just that. As an employee, you can easily see what resources are available in different locations. You might also know which attorneys prefer specific rooms and what technologies are in that room. It is all put upfront, and this simplifies the needed processes.
Many people at Shook have indeed worked at the law firm for a long time. When you make needed changes and improvements, you should focus on showing the employees what is done to make the daily repeated processes better and more manageable. Shook's approach to the implementation of AskCody was to show the abilities of the platform, make a few introduction videos, and a quick reference guide. That is it.
AskCody is not as difficult as moving to Office 365 or a new document system. The new meeting management platform is something that quickly has become part of an employee's daily workflow. And we're making it easier for our people and making it take less time too, says Lucas Schnoebelen.
No More “Oh I Thought”
Another one of America’s leading law firms, Boston-based, top-ranked Burns & Levison, also made the decision to switch to AskCody. With AskCody, Burns & Levinson has automated labor-intensive meeting tasks such as scheduling, catering, and AV equipment requests to offer a consistent, professional experience for their clients.
AskCody supports a decentralized process that empowers legal assistants and end-users to take control of their own and their attorneys’ calendars scheduling.
What I really like about AskCody is that the legal assistants can now take ownership of their meetings and orders. There is no more ‘oh I thought I told you I didn’t need the room anymore,’ which drives higher utilization of our rooms and lowers costs on unnecessary catering orders. Having the responsibility back in the hands of the assistants allows the reception to provide more of a white glove experiencing for the clients coming in, rather than scheduling conference rooms, says Henry Chase, CIO, Burns & Levison.
Ease of Use Is Worth It
Without the right tools that integrate process and bind organizational units together, every one-hour meeting is more likely a five-hour meeting.
Every firm has their own way of doing things, which means that they may not actively be looking for a solution. From our own experience and speaking to others at other firms, when you come up with an internal process that works, the cost of the way things is done is hidden. There wasn’t a cost to the budget, so in terms of dollars, it was “free”. AskCody quickly showed us through various calculations and analyses with our team that this was not the case. The pilot helped us understand that AskCody does actually help us be more efficient and give back time to the attorneys and assistants. The POC helped us actively compare the cost of the solutions and the ease it was bringing to the cumbersome process we had before. Again, the best advice is to try it. You will see quickly that the ease of use, ease of management and overall time savings is worth it, says Henry Chase.
Overall, meetings are a necessary part of the business. You meet to share ideas, make some progress, gain some results, move forward, collaborate, learn, improve, grow. This is the reason why people end up in a ton of meetings every week in a professional context. It is simply the way modern organizations work these days. Therefore, meetings are an integral part of business life. However, what is not necessary is the amount of time spent arranging these meetings.
Finding a Room Can Be a Productivity Killer
Stop for a while and just think about how much time you spend on planning a single meeting with, let us say, four people. You need a room with a whiteboard and a presentation screen, and you need to book some beverages for the meetup as well. Meeting room bookings can be a minefield filled with anarchy - just ask your poor receptionist or office manager. For organizations with a lot of meeting rooms located across locations and time-zones, finding an available room, and booking associated services can be a nightmare for employees and a real productivity killer.
Statistics shows us that 40 percent of workers in large organizations waste up to 30 minutes a day searching for space to collaborate. Likewise, business professionals spend 4.75 hours of a typical workweek arranging an average 15 meetings per week. Why is meeting management such a problem? People forget to look at the calendar. They see that the room’s empty so they think it is free and once inside, it can be difficult for anyone else to work out who booked the room without interruption. Interruptions kill productivity and waste time.
Without a clear overview of today’s meetings, you waste space and meeting room resources, and without an integrated meeting room booking tool into your company’s productivity infrastructure, like Microsoft Exchange or Office 365, you waste a lot of time and resources on cumbersome processes.
Almost Five Hours per Week Is Spent Arranging Meetings
According to a study conducted back in September 2010, business professionals spent 4.75 hours (that is a lot!) of a typical workweek arranging meetings (not attending, simply preparing and arranging) - including ordering and booking additional resources for meetings as well as re-ordering and re-arranging associated bookings and services while meetings get rescheduled and relocated all the time.
This is supported by new research from eShare. Their survey of 1,005 office workers in the UK revealed that the average worker spent one hour and nine minutes preparing for each meeting and one hour and 22 minutes attending it. That is simply insane. Now add the time spent per meeting for the rest of the organization to support that single meeting.
Complete Change in the Way Meetings Are Managed
Implementing a solution like AskCody to manage all processes related to meeting room booking and meeting management is a safe pill to take. A solution like AskCody can completely change the way meetings are booked and managed, and how all associated items and resources are ordered for meetings across organizations and locations – all inside your organization’s Microsoft Outlook and Office 365. The AskCody product suite streamlines room and desk booking, meeting management, and all aspects of the business that are recognized as hurdles to productivity and a waste of time.
AskCody lets people search for and book rooms based on availability, the number of people, the purpose of the meeting, and in-room equipment right inside Outlook. You can book meeting rooms, order associated services, and handle visitors from inside Office 365 or Outlook’s familiar interface. With AskCody, you can provide the flexibility your employees need to stay productive and hence effectively and efficiently manage their time and activities in the modern workplace. Booking and managing meetings really should not be very hard.