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Tips for Business Meetings with Americans: Scheduling

This is the first in our series of Tips for Business Meetings with Americans.

Scheduling meetings is a very important aspect of professional culture in the United States. While spontaneous meetings between friends occur often, spontaneous meetings in the legal profession do not. The two most important things to remember about scheduling business meetings are: be prepared and be professional.

Be Prepared
If you would like to schedule a meeting, the first things you should consider are how long the meeting will take, where the meeting will occur, and who needs to attend.

Time Estimates
Having a general estimate of how long the meeting will take will be expected when you call to schedule an appointment with any attorney’s office. This allows everyone to set aside enough time to conduct the meeting.

Location
Location is very important, and the expectations vary depending on the meeting. Generally speaking, if you are scheduling a meeting to take the deposition of another attorney’s client or witness, the meeting should occur at the lawyer’s office or at a location convenient for the witness. If you are scheduling a meeting to obtain advice from a colleague, allow them to pick a location. Something less formal is often appropriate, and meetings of this nature may often happen over coffee or a meal.

Attendees
If you have a client or another person who will be attending the meeting with you, confirm their availability before contacting the attorney with whom you wish to meet. It is best to have a few dates and times available before you contact the other attorney’s office, as scheduling can often be difficult when trying to balance court appearances and day-to-day tasks.

Be Professional
When you contact the attorney’s office, be kind and courteous to the person who initially answers the phone. Receptionists often have a wealth of information about the law firm and the attorney with whom you wish to meet. If you treat them with respect, it will go a long way.

If it is a small office, the receptionist might handle the scheduling for the entire office. It is often helpful to ask if they handle the calendar of the particular attorney you would like to meet. If they do not, ask to speak with the appropriate person. Most attorneys do not handle their own calendars, and scheduling is often a task assigned to the receptionist or the lawyer’s personal secretary or paralegal.

Scheduling
If you are speaking with the appropriate person, explain the reason for your call and the details of the meeting you would like to schedule. Remember that scheduling a meeting may take more than one call or email if there are multiple people involved. If the meeting is not scheduled during your call, confirm an appropriate time to follow up.

Confirmation and Changes
If the meeting is more than a week away, call or email 24 hours before the appointment to confirm that it is still going forward as scheduled. It is not unusual to need to reschedule an appointment because of changes in demands on an attorney’s time. The other attorney’s office will also understand if you need to cancel or change an appointment, just be sure to notify the person who initially scheduled the meeting.

Once you have scheduled and confirmed your appointment, you have laid the foundation for a meeting. Our next post in this series will cover how to prepare for it.