Welcome to the final installment of our series on effective delegation for lawyers. By now you know that when it comes to effective delegation, there are three important steps focused on what, who and how.
In Part 1, “What Can You Delegate?,” we shared a matrix to help you determine what work can be effectively delegated and what work you should do yourself. Part 2, “To Whom Should You Delegate?,” provided another matrix that will help you determine the best candidate for the job. In this final part, we’re discussing the “how” of an effective delegation process.
Now that you are clear on what task you want to delegate and the person you are delegating it to, you are ready to delegate the work. And this is where most lawyers make mistakes. They rush through the process of explaining the task. Likewise, they fail to set clear deliverables or confirm expectations, or avoid holding others accountable.
To delegate legal work like a pro, you want to assess several things first.
Provide Clear Guidance on How to Complete the Assignment Successfully
To ensure that your delegation produces a high-quality product, answer the following questions:
- Is there sufficient time for this person to complete the work you are delegating?
- Are your instructions clear about what needs to be done? Have you clearly articulated those instructions?
- Have you given the delegatee a chance to ask questions? (Tip: If your team members are not asking questions, assess whether you have created an environment where they can ask questions without feeling “stupid” or intimidated.)
- Have you provided context to help the individual understand how this assignment fits into the large scheme and why it’s important? (Tip: This is a fantastic motivational tool.)
- What are the major stages to completing the work, if any?
- Do you want any progress reports? How frequently and in what format?
- Are there other people involved? Do they need to be kept updated?
- How do you want the result to be delivered? A fully drafted motion? A rough draft? In a document file? A spreadsheet? Email?
- Is the deadline clear? “As soon as possible” is too vague. “End of the week” is better, but still vague. “Thursday afternoon” is even better. “Thursday before 5 p.m.” is best.
A Note About Time
When it comes to delegating, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “it’ll be much quicker if I just do it myself.” Though this may be so in the short term, in the long run, you are short-changing yourself.
Investing your time now to effectively delegate the work to others is a high-impact strategic activity that can save you time:
- It leaves you with fewer items to handle now, which can save time in the short term.
- More importantly, you are teaching and developing others, which will save a lot more time in the long run.
To many lawyers, delegation can seem like a challenging (even at times an impossible) task. Using the steps provided in this three-part series will help you be more strategic and, thus, more effective. The end result: You will be able to free yourself up to tackle the most valuable work, thereby growing your practice, advancing your legal career, and developing others along the way.
Happy (effective) delegating!