When it comes to law firm retreats, you’re probably imagining metrics, business development plans and motivational speakers. But these types of team-building trips go far deeper than that. Whether you’re a boutique or an AmLaw 100 firm, your retreat should facilitate bonding, re-energize your team and encourage cross-practice collaboration.

For example, we recently returned from our annual Jaffe retreat, and our team is more bonded and energized than ever. Why? We spent the majority of our time getting to know each other better, both personally and professionally, while engaging in challenging and fun team-building activities in a relaxed atmosphere. Yes, we still set aside time for a roundtable discussion about business and strategy. But the majority of the time was focused on relationships, which, for team-oriented enterprises – including law firms – are the foundation of success.

Here are some key points I took away from our annual retreat that a law firm should consider when planning that next group outing.

Build Morale by Creating a Team Mindset

Partners may work together for years at a firm without really getting to know each other, but as soon as they attend an offsite retreat to have some fun as a team, it builds new and everlasting bonds. People tend to be their true selves when they are relieved from the pressures of day-to-day office life. Like vacation time, a retreat allows attorneys to renew their enthusiasm and excitement for work.

Spending a few days away from the office with your colleagues, many of whom you see daily, brings you much closer. It creates a feeling similar to gathering with your extended family on a holiday. A team that acts like a family tends to have better communication, enhanced trust and appreciation for one another, and increased productivity.

When planning a retreat, think through your goals and choose activities that fit those goals. If your objective is to fortify bonds and establish trust among team members, a ropes course might be the way to go.

Encourage Attorneys to Work Toward a Shared Goal

Practice silos can quickly create barriers in law firms. Each practice has different performance metrics and perceptions of success. Challenging attorneys from various practices to collaborate on a project at a retreat requires them to get to know each other and adopt new mindsets. At our recent Jaffe retreat, we were purposely paired in teams with colleagues we don’t typically work with to encourage us to get to know each other better and collaborate toward shared goals. If you want to challenge employees and inspire thoughtful conversations, mix up the groups and encourage people who don’t normally work together to share ideas.

Expose Hidden Talents

Law firm retreats are great ways to discover things you didn’t know about your team. Maybe a partner is also an incredible athlete or an associate is an accomplished musician. Getting away from the daily grind and tackling team-building activities give attorneys the opportunity to unwind and discover more about one another. This, in turn, can further strengthen relationships. Who knows? Perhaps you might discover a shared interest among partners who don’t usually work together, which can help fortify bonds within the office.

Bonding Is a Part of Business

The bottom line is that, for a firm retreat to be successful, the lawyers must shift gears, loosen up and allow room for new thinking to take place and new bonds to form. Participants will walk away excited about new opportunities and energized by the improved and deepened relationships they have developed.

Need help planning your next retreat or organizing a team-building initiative at your law firm?  Feel free to contact me, Lisa Altman, at laltman@jaffepr.com.