How to Delegate Successfully

If you belong to the “do it yourself” school, believe that you can’t afford to delegate, or have no faith that those reporting to you can do the job, please read this recent post from Tips for Lawyers. Here is an excerpt:

How To Delegate Properly (and to be delegated to)

First, identify the task with enough precision. Sometimes greater detail will be needed than others, and sometimes the task will be wishy washy. But either way, ensure that the junior knows exactly what is expected of them.

Set a realistic deadline, after speaking with your intended junior. This involves ensuring that your own time to review or settle the product is included, and you have provided a time by which the junior staff member must bring their draft (or results, or whatever) to you.

Identify how long, in real time, you think it should take. For example “the research shouldn’t take you more than 2 hours, and then 1 further hour to put together the draft letter”. Ensure that the junior comes back to you if those estimates are turning out to be impossible. This avoids two problems:

First, time getting written off because it took longer than you thought;
Estimates provided to the client being inaccurate.

Somebody take notes of the discussion (guess what – this will be you, junior lawyer).

Don’t call it urgent if it’s not. OK this is a bit of a pet peeve, but some seem to think that they will jump to the top of the priority list by calling everything they do “really urgent”. The task is then completed (at the cost of the other tasks that had to be set to one side) and then not looked at for two days. If it’s urgent, that’s fine – but don’t be the “boy who cried wolf” on this one, or people will just start ignoring you…

Make sure you have an open door policy in case the task requires clarification. Point ‘n’ shoot doesn’t work in the law – often complex tasks develop while being undertaken, and so more information might be needed or clarification of the intended path might be required.

Finally, ensure you provide enough facts. I have seen time and time again a wonderful task be completed and then the senior lawyer say “oh but X doesn’t apply because Y and Z are applicable to this one”. Was that a great exercise in how to waste somebody’s time and the client’s money? Yes. Was it good delegation? No. Providing sufficient context to a task also allows the junior lawyer to understand the real world impact of their task, which will often provide motivation and build a better team mentality.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

4 thoughts on “How to Delegate Successfully

  1. Hi Guys – I admit I’m late to this particular party, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing the article above. Hopefully it was beneficial to your readers. Kind Regards, Chris H (Tips for Lawyers)

  2. Pingback: Revisiting Smart Delegation | Oregon Law Practice Management

  3. Pingback: Create Distraction Free Time | Oregon Law Practice Management

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