Every lawyer needs an executive assistant.
By Christopher Earley
A large part of the business of law is seeking to be as productive as possible with the time we have. For years, I was doing far too many unproductive tasks that had nothing to do with practicing law and helping my clients. Planning meetings, making travel arrangements and other activities I hated doing were eating up my day and undercutting my productivity. I reached a point where I was sick and tired of it and as a result, I hired an executive assistant. Once I did that, my life got exponentially easier and more productive. This one hire has improved my career. Here are some lessons I have learned about searching for and hiring an executive assistant.
First, get your mind right. You must embrace the fact that you need to let go of doing certain tasks. You must embrace the idea that your growth as an attorney is directly tied to your ability to let go and allow others to help you. Once you do, you begin to see all sorts of possibilities open up. Be brutally honest and consider your hourly rate. It becomes very clear that you are probably doing tasks you have no business doing. Does that make sense when you are literally losing significant money by doing them yourself? An executive assistant allows you to buy back your time. This was a game-changer for my career.
Next, think about how to find the right person. As with every job post, you need to be specific about the exact executive assistant you are looking for. I was looking for an executive assistant who is smart, enjoys doing the work I hate doing, including handling spreadsheets, and is meticulously thorough and organized. Get clear about the type of personality you are seeking, the experience level, and other important ‘fit’ considerations. With the advent of remote work, this team member, like most team members, can be fully remote. My executive assistant is in Florida. As long as the team member has a computer with a solid internet connection, and access to software and other programs needed to do the job, the person can be located anywhere in the world.
Once you find and hire your executive assistant, give them a manual or checklist so that they know what work is expected. Thoroughly train and onboard the new executive assistant so they hit the ground running. It will take some time to develop a chemistry and rhythm, but this is an investment of time on your part that will pay off.
Once you begin delegating work, be very intentional. My personal approach is to consider my workload in the context of the 80/20 rule. This rule states that 20% of your work brings you 80% of the results, while 80% of your work brings you 20% of the results. What I do is delegate as much of the 80% (busy work) as possible so that I can fully lean into and live in the 20% (productive work).
When deciding what to delegate, try to get as much off your plate as possible. Communicate how the work should be done, what the completed work should look like, and give a firm deadline. Far too many lawyers fail to delegate properly. This is a disservice to the delegee.
It has been said that if you don’t have an assistant, then you are the assistant. I have found that to be true. Now that I have the right executive assistant, I am thinking about expanding her hours because I am constantly identifying tasks I can delegate. You’ll never know what an executive assistant can do for your career until you hire one and see for yourself. If you have other ideas on the subject of hiring and utilizing executive assistants, I would love to hear them. Please share them with me.
Christopher Earley is a Boston personal injury attorney and author who focuses his practice on the representation of the seriously injured and their families. His firm website is www.ChrisEarley.com.