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Effective Delegation for Lawyers, Pt. 1

What Can You Delegate?

Not every piece of legal work is as complex as it seems at first. Use this matrix to analyze what work to delegate — and what to keep.

By Yuliya LaRoe

Julia is a star senior associate and soon-to-be partner. She knows that to continue succeeding at her firm, she needs to delegate more work to junior associates and staff. But how? She simply doesn’t think she can trust others to do a quality job. After all, her mantra “If you want anything done right, do it yourself!” has served her well. And the few times she has delegated work, she’s had to redo everything herself.

“What’s the point?” she argues. “Delegating is just going to cost me more time and money.”

Many lawyers have the same attitude when it comes to delegating work to others. But the truly successful lawyers overcome this and figure out how to delegate effectively. Why? Because they know that not delegating can result in:

  • Eroded trust, low morale and disempowered team members.
  • Diminished productivity for both their team members and the lawyer.

Three Steps to Effective Delegation

Ready to start delegating like a pro? When delegating legal work, there are three important steps:

  1. Determine what.
  2. Decide who.
  3. Get clear on how.

In this first post in this three-part series on effective delegation, we’ll dig into the first step.

Step 1. Determining What You Can Delegate

Often, lawyers say they’d love to delegate more work but it’s just too complex or too important to be delegated. While there is plenty of both in any given legal matter, not everything is as complex and important as it might seem at first. The following “What” Delegation Matrix will help you analyze whether a particular piece of work can be delegated effectively.

Using the matrix,  assess the work you are considering delegating based on:

  1. The work’s complexity, which means the level of difficulty and the experience required to produce a quality result.
  2. The work’s importance, which means the potential impact the work can have on the outcome of the case, the client, you or the firm.

delegate effectively lawyers

Quadrant A: Low Complexity and Low Importance

This is a slam dunk! This work should be delegated.

Examples: Administrative tasks (such as organizing files, getting docket updates and so on); routine project management tasks; data gathering on the opposing party and their attorneys. (We are using litigation as an example, but the same reasoning applies to transactional practices.)

Quadrant B: Delegating by Low Complexity and High Importance

This type of work can be delegated with an appropriate amount of guidance. The person you are delegating to needs to understand the importance of the task and the impact this work may have on the rest of the matter or project.

Examples: Drafting standard complaints and answers; routine answers to interrogatories or requests for admission; document review; performing more important project management tasks (creating and maintaining various tracking charts, client status update matrices, etc.); proofreading motions prior to filing.

Quadrant C: High Complexity and Low Importance

There may be a limited number of things you consider to be highly complex and lower in importance compared with other things. Nevertheless, even the most complex pieces of work can be broken down into less complex components or stages. Spend some time analyzing whether some aspects of the work can be broken down into less complex tasks that can be delegated to others. Yes, it will take time to do, but from a strategic perspective, it will be a high-impact activity and time well spent. (More on that later.)

Examples: Drafting the statement of facts and procedural history sections of the Memorandum of Points and Authorities.

Quadrant D: High Complexity and High Importance

This is the work you keep, assuming you already analyzed it to determine whether there are any components of it that are less complex or less important, which can be delegated.

Example: Developing a litigation defense strategy.

Next Time: Who and How

Congratulations! Now that you know what you are delegating, the next step is to determine to whom you should delegate the work.

In Part 2, we will do a deep dive into the “who” element of effective delegation. The final step is to get clear on “how” you want work to be completed, which we will cover in Part 3.

See you there!

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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For more on honing your delegation skills …

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Yuliya LaRoe

Yuliya LaRoe is an experienced attorney, certified coach, trainer and consultant, who helps law firms and lawyers develop and implement winning strategies in the areas of leadership, management, and business development. Learn more about Yuliya at www.2020lead.com and follow her @2020lead.

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