All too often, lawyers carry a heavy load of tasks on any given day. More lawyers must stop before starting a new task and ask, “Do I need to do this?” Especially for enterprising attorneys who are managing partners or starting their own firm, they take on the role of not just practicing law but creating and managing a team, too. Managing that team is the only way for your law firm to scale and the only way to avoid feeling like you have all the work on your plate.
Everything can be delegated. There, we said it. It’s true.
Yes, you must be the one to help your clients (but even then, you can leverage the support of associates in your firm or paralegals to help with that work, too.)
Hiring someone to help with your practice is about much more than finding someone who can perform the basic tasks. It’s about finding someone who fits in well with your law firm culture and is there to support you behind the scenes. In fact, paralegals, support staff, and administrative assistants can take a lot of the work away from you, but only when you delegate effectively.
Too often, we see lawyers go about hiring or delegating ineffectively, then throwing up their hands in frustration when it doesn’t work out. That leads to a repetitive cycle of putting the wrong people in place at your firm or delegating the wrong way, only to see the same results over and over. The good news is that there’s a better way to delegate.
See the Delegation Possibilities
It’s very easy to get into a cycle of doing all the work without realizing its toll on you. Whether it’s due to control issues or simply the fact that you needed to handle all the tasks until you could afford to delegate to someone else, now it’s time to think outside the box.
Even if you feel like you’re surviving with your current approach to your workload, take all those expectations off the table. If you only focused on doing client work and communicating pertinent info to clients, what does it look like for you to hand over other tasks? What pieces of your intake process, research work, or marketing might be better handled by someone else?
Rest assured that not everything has to be delegated to a full-time employee. As you create your master delegation list, things like accounting should also be up for consideration. You might leverage a part-time paralegal or a flat fee contract with a marketing agency to get things done, maximizing your budget but giving you a lot of free time.
Start by creating a red, yellow, and green list of things to delegate. Use the following to help you decide which tasks fit where:
- Green tasks are those that you could delegate relatively quickly and efficiently to someone else, so long as you provide good directions and you choose the right person.
- Yellow tasks are those that you might not yet feel comfortable delegating or that would require some upfront work and training to hand off to someone else.
- Red tasks are those that you might not ever delegate due to their complexity or only after you have established trust with the right person.
Once you’ve completed this list, look at all the green tasks. What do they have in common? For example, are they all things that a paralegal could help with? If so, a paralegal is your clear next hire, and you might want to include those tasks in a job description.
Look for Someone Who’s Hungry
One of the essential qualities to look for is someone who is hungry to do the work. Certainly, that person is there for a paycheck, and earning a living is an underlying goal for anyone taking a job. But it’s about more than that. Do your employees seize opportunities to go above and beyond and directly ask how they can best support you?
When evaluating candidates, ask them how they’ve approached challenging situations in their past roles. When someone faces a challenge, you can learn a lot about how they think, process information, and look for solutions.
Give Good Directions
Before you outsource a task to anyone on your team, think about what steps would be required for you to hand this off to someone else successfully. Would it take documenting your process? Creating a video? Paying for an extra seat on a software account? Knowing what it takes and referencing this before outsourcing gives you a good perspective on how to document good directions, too.
Keep this fundamental question in mind as you decide to delegate: “What does a win look like?”
Too many relationships with paralegals or admin assistants fall apart because the lawyer feels frustrated about the time it takes someone to complete the task or the quality of the finished assignment. Knowing what success looks like and being realistic about the fact that it might take your new hire a few tries to get something right in your existing processes is good awareness of what’s ahead.
Get Help with Delegation
Even after you’ve read through the tips in this blog, you might still have questions about delegation. You might need support to find the right people and draft that job description. To get back to the main point of “you can delegate everything,” yes, you can even delegate the process of hiring the right people to outsource to and help you! People more familiar with recruiting and hiring may find you a better and more permanent fit in these roles, reducing your stress and making the process easier for all involved.