Welcome back to our series on effective delegation for lawyers! Effective delegation has three main steps, focused on what, who and how. In “What Can You Delegate?” we shared a matrix you can use to determine what work you can delegate and what work you should do yourself. In this post, we’ll dive into the “who” element of the effective delegation process.
Step 2. Deciding to Whom to Delegate
As a general rule, you should delegate work to the available team member (junior associate, paralegal) with the appropriate billing rate who is available and competent to do the work. But since time is a critical resource for any lawyer, a key question to answer is how much supervision or support the person will require.
To that end, the “Who” Delegation Matrix below will help you determine the best person for the job. Here you are assessing the person to whom you are considering delegating the work based on:
- Their capabilities or skill level, which means the individual’s experience and ability to handle the task effectively and produce a quality result.
- Both their level of motivation and yours, which means the individual’s desire to handle the work and your desire to entrust the work to them.
Quadrant I: How to Delegate for Low Capability and Low Motivation
While someone who doesn’t possess the skill set or the interest in taking on the work can seem like a poor choice, this is often a signal that something more serious is going on. Use delegation as an opportunity to understand what might be affecting this person’s level of motivation and explore professional development needs. In other words, don’t let their current state prevent you from investing in developing their talent. Have an honest conversation with the associate or bring in your firm’s talent development professionals to help.
Quadrant II: How to Delegate for Low Capability and High Motivation
This individual is willing to take on the work and will most likely be eager to learn. Depending on how time-sensitive your assignment is, they might be a great candidate for delegation. It all depends on your level of motivation and willingness to invest time in guiding, coaching and supervising them. When deciding, keep in mind that the next time a similar task or project comes up, you’ll be able to delegate with confidence.
Quadrant III: High Capability and Low Motivation
With this individual, you have a chance to use your talent retention strategies! Anytime you see a capable, experienced lawyer feeling unmotivated or disengaged, you want to jump on the opportunity to uncover the reason for their current state. Perhaps they have too much to do and are feeling overwhelmed. Maybe something is going on outside of work, or they feel disconnected from their passion. Whatever the reason, don’t let their seemingly low motivation prevent you from getting them involved.
Alternatively, the individual could be the perfect candidate to train someone else. So think of someone in Quadrant II they can work with. This pairing uses their talent and saves you time. Again, consider engaging your talent development team to support you and the attorney.
Quadrant IV: High Capability and High Motivation
The person you’re considering is both capable of performing the task and quite willing to take it on. Plus, you most likely feel confident in entrusting the task to them. Therefore your level of motivation is high, too. Your job here is simple — delegate.
You are very close to delegating your work effectively! You know how to determine “what” work to delegate and to “whom.” Your final step is to get clear on “how” to delegate work effectively. We’ll cover that in Part 3.