Solo/Small Firm May 2022
Delegation Is Key
If you want to grow, you have to let go
Written by Ruby L. Powers
Many lawyers take pride in the fact that they handle everything themselves. Many subscribe to the old adage “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” However, that badge of honor should be reconsidered. In reality, with the right team, you can expand your efforts tenfold and maximize your firm’s reach. Do you catch yourself saying, “I don’t have enough time?” If so, there are a few solutions: 1) Make no change and continue to not have time; 2) Delegate tasks and projects; or 3) Start doing less. Regardless of who you are and how good you are at what you do, there are only 24 hours in a day. Effective delegation improves profitability and quality of life and comwork. So let’s take this refresher.
The first step to delegating is identifying what you want, can, or need to delegate. Questions you should ask yourself include, “Is it a large ongoing or stand-alone project, or is it a function in your firm?” Also, “Do a time audit of your days to see where you can delegate, automate, and eliminate.” After you start thinking this way, you will find a plethora of work to delegate.1
Ideal Tasks to Delegate
Delegating tasks as much as possible frees up time for you to assess tasks that have been delegated. To successfully delegate you must teach the suitable individual you are delegating how to accomplish the job. Then you should thoroughly review and provide constructive criticism for issues that have not been completed or are inaccurate. You never actually delegate the assignment if you take it upon yourself to repeat the work that has already been done. The following tasks are ideal for delegating:
Answering phone calls
Tasks with clear processes (by the way, create processes even if you are a solo and follow them)
Social media, website design, and other general marketing
Who Once you know what needs to be delegated, consider who is available to help you. Delegate to someone who has the skills and experience needed to accomplish the task. You wouldn’t delegate a complex legal matter to someone with no understanding of your area of law, or a writing project to someone without sound writing skills. Once you know the skills and experience needed to accomplish the task, search that person or service out. You could also consider delegating to an existing employee to provide the opportunity to expand their skills. If the person is not on staff, search with laser focus for that right person. If you need to batch various tasks, consider even making a part-time position, or consider if a new position in the firm is needed.
Another crucial part of delegation is training and communication. It may take longer to teach an employee to execute a task at first, and you may need to show them three or more times, but it will be worth it when they can complete the task correctly the next 100 times you need it. Attempt to communicate the task as clearly as possible. Ask for a recap of the instructions and give the individual an opportunity to exceed your expectations.
Don’t let a mini hiccup stop you from delegating. If you check in regularly, ask for updates, and have set parameters for review, you can ensure the individual understands the project and you can do quality control to ensure minimal time is lost if off track. Try not to take back what you have delegated unless you realize you have delegated to the wrong individual.
A common tactic when delegating tasks is to dump the project on someone’s to-do list and walk away with very little guidance. That is called abdication, not delegating, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work. I was guilty of this earlier in my law firm’s career.
Improve and Repeat
Delegation is a muscle that you must strengthen over time. Don’t be overwhelmed if it seems awkward at first. Once you figure out what does and doesn’t work, you can continue to improve and reap the benefits. TBJ
RUBY L. POWERS is the founder and managing attorney of Powers Law Group. Located in Houston, the firm focuses solely on immigration law. She is certified in immigration and nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Powers authored AILA’s book Build and Manage Your Successful Immigration Law Practice (Without Losing Your Mind). She is a law practice management consultant and coach with Powers Strategy Group (rubypowers.com). Powers served as the AILA LPM Committee and HBA LPMS chair and currently serves on the American Bar Association Future Initiatives, Book Publishing, and Women Rainmakers committees.