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“I found myself in a rut of doing work … then more work … and feeling stuck in the day-to-day of never seeing past tomorrow,” says Josh Brown, a solo attorney who deals primarily in franchise law.
Like most small firm attorneys, Brown’s to-do list kept growing, and no one was around to take something off his plate.
If you work in a small firm and your practice is growing, eventually you’re going to need to delegate work — whether you hire staff, outsource tasks, use virtual assistants or take another technology-based route. It’s not a matter of whether you can delegate work — technology has made expert knowledge and services available to do almost anything from anywhere. It’s a question of how.
Working in franchise law exposed Brown to a way of doing business that was completely different from how his own firm worked. “In the world of franchising you learn to do what is simple, repeatable and profitable,” he says. In contrast, when he looked at his law practice, he saw complexity and anxiety, unpredictability and a constant chasing after the dollar.
He realized he had to look for ways to create efficiencies in his business, and get the maximum value of his time. But to make delegating part of that package, what would the best approach be?
When you have a broken system, it’s tempting to look for a quick fix. As a marketer, I catch myself doing this all the time — I’ll read about some fantastic success story and think, “All I have to do is this, and everything will be easy!”
But it never works like that.
If you have a real problem, you have to dig deep and get to the core to solve it. If your problem is overwork and anxiety, delegating a few things may seem like a relief at first, but without a good plan it can actually create more work for you.
Before you delegate anything, you need to be able to answer these two tough questions.
1. What do I want? For Brown, getting out of the rut required stepping back from the day-to-day and looking at the big picture. Remembering why you set out to become a lawyer can provide the clarity you need to weed through your mountain of things to do and separate the essentials from the things that are not essential for you to do.
Imagine what your work would look like in a perfect world. What type of work would you be doing? What type of clients would you focus on? You won’t find the answers overnight. The goal is to have a lens through which to view your current activity and define a target to move toward.
2. What am I doing NOW? Brown created a spreadsheet of all the things he was currently doing, along with a list of exactly what he wanted to do for an entire year. He discovered how much time he was wasting on tasks that didn’t move the practice forward — and didn’t bring him enjoyment.
Delegating work successfully requires a relentless uncovering of what is consuming all your time. Write down everything you are doing over a two-week period. Then break down the tasks into these categories:
Work that falls into all three categories is the sweet spot for your practice. Do as much of it as you can.
Work that falls into none of these categories should be delegated to a qualified person, outsourced or perhaps eliminated entirely.
Learning to delegate wisely starts with asking the right questions. What do you want? What needs to get done to make that happen, and what, specifically, do you want to do? From there, you should be able to see what’s left that needs to get done but that you should not be doing.
That’s when you delegate or outsource specific tasks, depending on talent and goals.
Josh Brown learned from the franchise model to seek and create efficiencies in his practice, and along the way he began to find alternate streams of revenue. “Where I am now is a product of me stepping back and thinking about the big picture,” he says. “Simply trading my time for dollars, getting busier and busier and busier, was not something I wanted long-term. So I started thinking, ‘What do I want to build?’”
While he’s still working on creating other, better systems for his firm, he can now see beyond tomorrow and knows exactly where he wants to go.
So, what do you want to build?
Micky Deming is the director of marketing at Kahuna Accounting, connecting attorneys across the country with Kahuna’s bookkeeping solution. He is a journalism graduate and more of his writings can be found on the Kahuna Accounting blog.
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