Law Firm Management: Let go of the reins and delegate
By Christopher Earley
“Time is an attorney’s stock in trade.” – Abraham Lincoln
A well-run law firm is predicated on effective delegation throughout the organization. Far too often attorneys believe they are the only ones who can perform a task in a certain way. This is a limiting mindset which creates production bottlenecks and stifles an attorney’s growth. But when delegation is properly and consistently executed, it boosts production and allows a law firm to get out of its own way and move towards its goals. Whether you are a solo, or you manage 50 lawyers, without delegation you will drive yourself crazy, and create a huge amount of stress. As famed personal injury attorney John Morgan says, in order to grow, you must “delegate ruthlessly.” Here are tips on getting out of your own way by delegating.
Delegation begins with a proper mindset. You must let go of control and empower others to help you. Accept that others can do things that you do just as well, if not better. Get comfortable with letting go of the reins. The more you entrust others, the more you will see how delegation will move the needle for your practice. “Done” is better than perfect, so think more about how your staff can help make your life easier.
Delegate, but don’t micromanage. Clear, unambiguous communication with the delegee is crucial. First, you should always be clear on how the work should be done. Never assume the delegee can read your mind, so be clear and thorough on what you expect. Second, I recommend articulating what the completed product should look like. This gives the person clarity on what you expect the end result to be. Third, provide a deadline. This is crucial for the delegee to be able to plan. If you need the product by Tuesday at 4:50 pm, tell the person exactly that.
What you should delegate is a matter of preference. I believe busy work (making copies, sending out faxes, going to the post office) is work that must be delegated. Any tasks that are not productive and don’t move the needle in your practice should be delegated. In fact, if someone can do something 75% as well as you can, delegate it. As an attorney, to be maximally productive, you should be focused only on professional work product that only you can do. All else should be delegated. Job satisfaction and reduced stress are only possible when you are engaged in productive work to the greatest and fullest extent possible.
I encourage you today to look at your desk, as well as your schedule, and find tasks that can be delegated to the support staff. Then each day, continue to delegate. Before long this will become a habit and you will reflexively be on the lookout for tasks to assign. If you are a true solo without staff, then delegation is especially important. There is no shortage of virtual assistants who would be pleased to take this work off your plate.
When you delegate, you will become considerably more productive, focusing only on high-level and lucrative work, which in turn, will have a positive effect on your finances. Time management and delegation go hand-in-hand. Commit today to delegate just one thing you need to stop doing. Do the same thing tomorrow. You will wonder why you did those things yourself for so long.
Let me know how you make out.
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.