It can be almost impossible to let go of control. Even if you’ve single-handedly built up your practice, you can’t go it alone forever. In fact, for a new law firm, this is just one of many challenges and at some point, you’re going to have to accept help from others. As Alvaro Arauz said on The Rankings Podcast ‘The key to growth is delegation.’This because you maximize the quality of your own output by focusing on the things you’re great at. If you’re a fantastic marketer, spend your time on that and let the accounting whizz balance the books. Or if you love representing your clients, let your hot-shot receptionist handle incoming inquiries instead of you. This frees up your time to focus on critical tasks and gives your delegatees meaningful responsibilities to take ownership of.
But how do you delegate effectively? How do you make sure that the work you designate to others gets completed to a satisfactory level? These are the questions we’re going to tackle over the next five tips for effective delegation.
What to Delegate
Learning how to identify what to delegate is an important step in unlocking productivity for lawyers. The key here is to recognize which tasks you’re best suited to and which tasks are better suited to others. This can be done by working out which jobs you’re good at and which jobs you enjoy, or, conversely, which jobs you’re not so good at and don’t enjoy.
One method Alvaro Arauz recommends is to assign yourself an hourly rate. Then, take note of how long your tasks take, and at the end of two weeks, total up how much time and monetary value you’ve put into your activities. Now that you’ve put a financial cost to each job, you’ll be able to see which tasks you value more. For example, if you spent $2500 in work-hours reading client queries, but only $1000 working on SEO, you might decide that your time is better spent handling SEO and getting someone else to handle the queries.
You can also work out what the critical roles are that you, and only you, can do. These might be handling certain cases because you have expertise in a particular niche. Or you might negotiate referrals from other firms because only you have the authority and brand awareness to best secure those deals. Having this shortlist will help you home in on your “mission-critical” activities so you can distribute some of the other hats you wear.
When to Delegate
Now that you’ve got an idea of the jobs you’d like to assign to others; you need to work out when to delegate them. If you’re not quite ready to let go of the reigns a little – this step might reassure you. But, if you’re eager to start distributing duties, it might be a little frustrating.
Before you delegate, you need to ensure that your staff is ready to handle the new responsibilities. This means that you’ll likely have to give them some form of training. This could be anything from a quick explanation of the job and desired outcomes, or it could mean carrying out a more thorough and detailed training session.
So consider your time restraints. If it’s urgent you may have to handle the task yourself for the time being while you train someone up to do it for you. If they have some experience you might be able to delegate straight away. However, you might want to assign time after completion to check that the work carried out is up to your standard, or to possibly even to correct mistakes.
Choosing Who to Delegate to
Take a moment to consider who to delegate to as choosing the wrong person could result in a lot of wasted time.
The whole point of delegating is to allow you to focus on the things that you’re good at so you can be more productive (see our article on Time Boxing for more tips on this).
You can achieve this by assigning tasks to people who already have experience and knowledge in that area. For example, you could delegate law firm search engine optimization to someone who works in IT, or to someone with for passion copywriting. Essentially, you need to practice what you preach and assign work to people whose passions align with the tasks you’re delegating.
You could also consider people’s ambitions. For example, if you’d like to handle fewer motor injury cases, you could find out whether you have any attorneys hungry to make a name for themselves in this area. By delegating work based on people’s passions you:
- create an environment that supports their goals, thereby boosting morale.
- potentially develop experts within your firm.
- increase their work satisfaction.
But a word of caution. Whether you delegate based on people’s proficiency, interests, or career goals, keep in mind their workload. Being assigned tasks you enjoy can be great, but an easy way to sap anyone’s enthusiasm or ambition is by overloading them.
This one might sound obvious. But set out objectives, boundaries, and deadlines clearly. If you’re delegating a repetitive task, i.e. weekly social media updates, you can ease off the intensive briefings after a few weeks. But for every new task you delegate, take the time to lay out these points clearly to ensure that they understand the job so you get the outcomes you expect.
Make sure to establish the following:
- Desired outcomes – clarify what the end-task or project should look like, and what it should achieve. This will give the person responsible some way to gauge whether their work is on-track.
- Boundaries – make sure whoever you’re delegating to understands the limits of their responsibility and their authority (especially if they’re heading up a team).
- Support – let them know who they can turn to for assistance. Also, let them know which resources they’ll have access to, such as case studies, and ask what support they think they’ll need.
- Milestones - this helps them to grasp the size of the task and allows you to monitor developments without micromanaging.
- Deadlines – make sure they know when the work is due. Remember to allow yourself a buffer period between their deadline and your deadline should any revisions be needed. This is especially important if you’re setting a new task.
Probably the simplest step of all, make sure you show appreciation for the people carrying out the jobs you’ve delegated. This will reinforce the fact that you are assigning meaningful work, which will contribute to their own job satisfaction.
Showing your gratitude will go a long way in letting your staff know that you’re delegating to them not because you don’t want to do unimportant work, but because you trust them to do important work. And whether you’re delegating career-goal-related work to someone or not, your appreciation will motivate them to continue to put in effort on the task.
It can be hard to give up control or trust others with the jobs you already do. But remember that there are only 24 hours in a day, and you can’t do everything on your own. So, allow others to take on some of the load and focus on the things you do best so you, your staff, and your firm can grow.