Update Efficiency – How to Increase Your Legal Group’s Productivity

Communication within a work or practice group is always a walk on a knife’s edge. On the one hand you want to foster a strong team identification and create a work-friendly environment. On the other hand, clear and direct feedback is of utmost importance to deliver high-quality results over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, most people tend to prefer the social aspect of communication over direct feedback. Hence, there is ample scope for improvements in communication efficiency and a tentative need for a new kind of communication.

This article introduces Crocker’s Rules – a social communication protocol designed to reduce emotional impact on debate and communication. You might consider changing your team’s communication to Crocker’s Rules. Why and how will be shown to you within the next six minutes of reading.

People tend to be affected emotionally when reading written or receiving oral feedback. As a fellow rationalist pointed out here: Having feelings that emerge from reasonable reality is completely rational. The Rational Think Tank (and we can not emphasize this enough) does not encourage you to become a non-feeling shadow of your own human nature, but rather to be increasingly conscious of why and what you feel and think to improve your decision making.

Why CRC can benefit you

Crocker’s Rules of Communication (CRC) allows you to communicate effectively, direct, without harmful side effects having a bad impact on your message. We can imagine a significant amount of misunderstandings caused by one party trying not to make the other party feel uncomfortable. We are always sub-consciously afraid of hurting others – but they in turn might realize that how a sender’s message in perceived depends entirely on their own minds’ spin on things.

Once you accept that impoliteness is sometimes necessary for effective transmission of information, you will stop feeling hurt or insulted by direct feedback. Simultaneously, the other party to the conversation can give you feedback directly and thoroughly without being afraid of the impact on social relationships. And the best part is: You will benefit from more honest feedback.

To turn to implementation: The etiquette requires a recipient operating under CR and a transmitter in knowledge of the capabilities of the recipient. The recipient needs to cut himself loose from the operation of his own mind projecting the image of an insulting language. At the same time the sender is loading his message with as much information as possible, omitting all usual words and phrases of civility.

How to indicate that you are using CRC

As we suggested before the parties need to know they’re operating under CRC – at least at the beginning. A common way is to indicate within the email signature that you are operating under CRC. However, this comes with a big disadvantage regarding the professional application thereof: You do not want to send this signature to a client: She might start seeing you as full on geek. It is advisable to rather indicate the usage of CRC by writing a “CR” in the Subject line. This saves time and gets the information directly across to the recipient. Before starting to use CRC all possibly affected co-workers need to know that this form of email will occur and to consent to this etiquette.

Although somedo not find consent necessary, it might come with some benefits. One of your colleagues might be emotionally more sensitive than others: She should have the right to abstain from CRC. As soon as the team gains more experience with this protocol, the “CR” might be left out completely. The participants will have learned over time, that a direct message is under CRC and not an attempt to insult them. By then, you should provide your co-workers with a CRC-List to ensure that non-participants will not be contacted under CR.

Please, let me repeat myself: CRC should not forcibly be pushed into anyone’s life. Operating under Crocker’s Rules is always a voluntary decision. No receiver should be contacted under CR if the contactor is not completely sure that this kind of communication is preferred.

Useful side effect: Saving time and resources

In the following we provide you with an example of applied CRC. You will realize how much time this kind of communication will save via comparison of the two possibilities. Visualize hundreds of emails printed out and you can imagine further cost savings as well.

Without CRC:

TO: Associate

FROM: Senior Associate

SUBJECT: RE: Project_Rational Merger

Dear Bill,

Thank you for updating me. I just looked into the slides you provided. First off: Great job, it looks mostly as I wanted. I found the information about the Corporate Governance too detailed. On the other hand, I want to ask you to be more thorough on “Right of First Refusal”-Clauses. Please be so kind and double check what you’ve already written in these sections. I think there might be important information missing and we need to be extremely accurate here.

If you don’t mind, come to my office tomorrow at 11am. We can discuss the latest discoveries there and brainstorm what to do next. See you then,



— replied to: —

TO: Senior Associate

FROM: Associate

SUBJECT: Project_Rational Merger

Hey John,

I just finished the summary of the 7th Shareholder Agreement. I’ attaching the newest version of my slides. Please tell me, if you need me to change anything. I would be grateful for feedback, since this is my first time doing this in such a project.

I expect the task to be finished tomorrow at 10:00 o’clock.

Kind regards,



With CRC:

TO: Associate

FROM: Senior Associate

SUBJECT: RE: CR Rational Merger, SHA 7/10 completed, slides attached, exp. Finish: tmrw at 10am

Too detailed in “Corporate Governance”; be more thorough in “Right of First Refusal” – double check the old SHA’s in this section. Rest looks fine. See you at my office tomorrow at 11am.

— replied to: —

TO: Senior Associate

FROM: Associate

SUBJECT: CR Rational Merger, SHA 7/10 completed, slides attached, exp. Finish: tmrw at 10am

Turning the Coin

CRC offers you important advantages and will save you time, paper and energy. It fosters honest feedback and ensures high-quality results. In contrast to Radical Honesty it encourages the working group to be tactful with those who did not accept this kind of communication. Hence, CRC can turn out as a win-win. Accept it, adopt it, use it – benefit from it? There might be some good reasons to put Crocker’s Rules aside.

A blogger called Malcolm argues here that CRC has the big disadvantage of losing subconscious communication. This is an important point and applicable mostly to personal communication, hence we need to consider whether to apply CRC. On the one hand, you might have a huge interest in effective feedback. On the other hand, you might have an even greater interest in not losing human aspects of your communication.

For example: If you are having lunch, you would rather prefer your colleagues to tell you their opinion on your new tie or dress with more emotional content. Operating under CR would allow them to say: “I find the colors of your tie outdated and not fitting the color of your suit!” and might ruin your lunchbreak. However, working on a case with tight deadlines you might prefer feedback in CRC. Because it saves time and enables you to fulfill your duties on a more accurate and effective level.

Recently, a #30in30 has brought a completely new view on email communication. Negativity bias, likewise, impacts the communication with your clients and co-workers. As a 21st century legal professional, most of your communication is likely to occur through email. Daniel Goleman exposes in his book “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights” that there is even a negativity bias in email. This leads to the email receiver thinking the tone of a mail was neutral, even though the sender intended to phrase it positively. On the other hand, an intended neutral email will likely be confused as tending towards a negative tone. Interestingly, this effect disappears when the sender and the receiver know each other well.

We might argue on legitimate grounds that this effect is most likely influenced by CRC. On the one hand, the application of Crocker’s Rules could increase the negativity bias. This might be the case if our brain needs positive content to overcome its negative approach. On the other hand, the effect could be completely mitigated. This would be the case, if our brain perceived the message as plain information and not as direct communication.

To conclude, CRC can turn out to be detrimental if applied without consent. It then turns into a destructive mode of communication, easily impacting your personal relationships. When in social situations, you might want to abstain from using it, since it fosters information and feedback, but not the forming of social bonds. However, Crocker’s Rules Communication can be an effective tool to update your colleagues without putting too much effort into small talk and niceties, hence, saving your team time and resources and leading to more efficient communication.


What is your opinion on this communication style? Feel free to tell us in the comment section of our Facebook posting!