Do you find it difficult to delegate tasks to your employees?
As lawyers, we often think that no one is going to be able to do our work as well as we do. While it’s fair to think that, it’s also the one thing that holds us back from growing our practices.
Here are three steps you can take to delegate better so that you can free your time up to work on your practice, instead of in your practice.
How to Delegate Better as An Attorney
1. Realize everything you do can be delegated.
The first step to delegate better is to realize that what you do is not special. It can be all be delegated. Once you have that realization, life will start to become easier for you.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I have violated that rule over and over again. In the earlier days of running my firm, I thought that I could never delegate someone handling the leads that our firm gets, because I thought it was too precious. How could somebody else take the call with a prospective client? What if they don’t tell them the right thing? What if the client ends up going somewhere else? I was taking two or three hours a day just to answer calls coming into the firm, and maybe only 10-20% of those people would ultimately sign up with the firm.
Once I realized how much time I was wasting just answering calls, I delegated that task to a very skilled paralegal. Now, because this paralegal isn’t rushed on the phone, we get close to the same amount of work – if not more. He has time to explain things and be really kind to potential clients and not rush them. I never thought it could be done, but it has been.
I also thought I could never delegate certain types of client counseling. How could someone else explain the nuances that I do when I’m reviewing a trademark search report? How could someone else talk to my clients and give them practical advice?
Guess what? There are plenty of other attorneys that can do that. They might not do every last little touch I want, but if somebody can be 80% as good as you, that’s great and your clients are not going to miss a beat.
I never thought I could delegate these things, and I have. And by delegating, I have gotten all sorts of time back to go out there and grow the practice. I make videos, do strategic thinking, and put in place new programs. I improve our systems. I improve the advice that the firm is providing to clients. I have all these things I can do because I freed up that time.
Laziness also comes into play. It takes a lot of work to train someone to answer the phone and take the leads. It takes a lot of work to train a new attorney to take a search call, to do the things that we want them to do with counseling. It’s not easy, but when you put the time in and you train someone, all of a sudden your life changes.
It’s lazy to not delegate because you think you can do it quicker and better. But then you have to do that 100 times more as opposed to having somebody else do it for you. So just remember that you’re just being lazy.
2. Identify what needs to be delegated.
Now the second tip is to identify what are things that are taking up your time that you really need to get off your plate.
For me, the way I did this is by looking at my email. My emails are like a to-do list. “I have to get this trademark search reviewed. I have to get this to a client. I have to answer these leads.” I organize these things into buckets of work. For example, leads is one bucket of work, reviewing trademark searches and providing client counseling is another bucket of work.
By identifying the different buckets, I can figure out who I should push the work to. Don’t just try to delegate any email that comes in. You’re not just delegating an email, you’re delegating a whole bucket of type of work. So just keep that in mind.
3. Actually delegate.
The next step in this process is to figure out how to delegate. This is how I’ve trained folks.
The first thing I do is I use a program called Screencast. This lets me record a video of what I’m doing on my screen and talk people through it. Instead of having to have someone sit next to me at my desk, I will just literally record a 20 or 30-minute video to walk them through how I’m doing something.
The benefit of that video is that we don’t have to meet up at certain time of day, too. I can just do it in the comfort of my own office or in today’s coronavirus world, I do it at home. In addition, once I create the video, the person that’s getting it can watch it over and over and over again. If you sit there and you train somebody, probably only 10% of that is retained. Well, if you send them a video, they can watch it once, get the lay of the land, watch it again, and watch it again. They can understand every little step along the way and learn at their own pace.
Now, in other cases, if you’re trying to train somebody on, for example, how to answer leads, I think that there’s things you can do. You need to create checklists for the task that needs to get done. What are the different things that have to get done in order for this task to be done appropriately? Having a checklist for a lead, making sure we respond within a few hours, etc.
Sometimes, I will just have the person trail me and let them see how I’m handling things. Because while I wanna have very specific training materials that they can refer back to, sometimes just hanging out with you and getting the lay of the land and how you’re handling things can be helpful to someone that’s trying to learn a particular task. I wouldn’t lean on that as the only way to train somebody. But I think it can be sort of something you add to the mix as you’re trying to delegate tasks.
Delegating is not easy. All these steps take a lot of time and effort. But the reward is that all of a sudden you have someone that can take this bucket of work off your plate, and you freed up all this time to work on something else for your firm.