Great Delegation Skills by act50979


									                               Great Delegation Skills

    All lawyers delegate work. Be it to an          detailed below will minimize the risk
    assistant, paralegal, or another                of failure.
    attorney, leveraging others’ skill sets
    through delegation is a critical-path      •    Financial. Lawyers believe that if
    management tool for lawyers. Getting            they give away the work, their
    the right work to the right people who          compensation will be adversely
    have enough time is the key to the              affected. The reality is that
    efficient and effective completion of           leveraging the skills of others allows
    projects.                                       the delegator to engage in other
                                                    value-added activities, including
    Yet many lawyers are poor delegators            higher value work, business
    of work. Why that is and ways to                development, etc.
    improve your delegation skills follow.
                                               •    Inexperience. As mentioned above,
     Delegation Roadblocks                          lawyers lack experience when it
                                                    comes to delegating properly.
    There are numerous reasons why                  Experience comes from doing, so
    lawyers don’t delegate work or don’t            we’ll focus on that.
    delegate it well, including:
                                                    Delegation Framework
•    Individualists. Lawyers are
     individualists and don’t tend to play         Here are some methods to improve
     well with others. From the time we            your delegation skills.
     entered college, or before, we
     focused and relied on our own efforts     •    Organize Your Work. You can’t
     to succeed. Delegation requires the            possibly delegate work effectively or
     acceptance of a team environment               efficiently if you don’t have your own
     and lawyers just aren’t accustomed             house in order. The “messy desk is a
     to that way of thinking.                       sign of a great mind” cliché is just
                                                    that – a cliché. This article doesn’t
•    Fear. Lawyers fear delegation                  address professional hygiene, but
     because: (a) it questions their value          there are numerous resources
     if another can do the work, and (b)            available to those that need this
     the delegator is exposed to negative           assistance. The bottom line is – get
     consequences if the delegatee fails            organized!
     to accomplish the work properly. As
     for (a), your own worth is tied to your   •    What Can Be Delegated?
     work product, not the stack of work            Determine what components or
     on your desk. As for (b) the process           projects can be delegated. Factors in
                                                    this decision include skill set(s)
    required to accomplish tasks,
    interest or challenge in the work, and    •   Align Your Attitude/Expectations.
    best use of available personnel. For          This goes hand-in-hand with the last
    example, a routine filing can be              two points. Remember, it’s almost
    delegated, as can an ancillary                always more efficient for you to
    deposition, but a key merger                  simply do the work yourself.
    negotiation cannot.                           However, there are only so many
                                                  billable hours in the day. Aligning
•   To Whom Can it Be Delegated?                  your expectations with the work and
    Staff members can handle repetitive,          the person to whom you’re
    easily completed tasks. Associates            delegating it will return a much better
    can handle more substantive work,             result for you both.
    provided the requisite skills have
    been developed. Advanced lawyers          •   Schedule Enough Time to Meet.
    should handle less defined elements           The better you explain the work, its
    of a project and those that require           background, and your expectations
    application of more advanced critical         the first time, the fewer mistakes that
    thinking skills. Note: one factor to          will be made and the less repetition
    consider is the need to bring newer           that will occur. If your delegatee
    people along, so make sure                    walks out of your office with a sound
    everyone is challenged a little.              understanding of the task(s), the
                                                  better able they are to complete it
•   Define the Project Deliverables               without further assistance from you.
    and Deadlines. One of the worst
    mistakes delegating attorneys make        •   Delegate Ownership. Don’t have
    is to ineffectively define what is            your delegatee come back at every
    expected from the delegatee. What             step. Let them know that you want
    may seem obvious to you is not so             them to make decisions on their
    obvious to a less experienced                 own. If they truly have a question
    individual. The same holds true for           they can’t figure out, you can always
    deadlines. It’s likely that you weren’t       assist them, but challenge them to
    always able to draft a complex                work through the problem on their
    complaint in only two billable hours.         own.
    Less experienced people need more
    time to become efficient. Give them       •   Obtain Feedback for Confirmation.
    specific and reasonable guidance on           When discussing the project, make
    your expectations.                            sure you’re getting feedback that
                                                  confirms that they understand what
•   Estimate the Time the Delegated               you’re saying. Similarly, feed back to
    Task Should Take. Providing the               them what you’re hearing to ensure
    delegatee an estimate of how long a           you understand what they’re saying.
    task should take sets parameters
    around the task, as well as provides      •   Engage in Progress Updates.
    them a yardstick to use while doing           Make time to check in on the
    the work.                                     progress of the project. This is
    especially true if the project is more
    involved. Just confirming for the
    delegatee that you’re interested in
    their progress will: (a) give them a
    greater sense of pride in the work
    and (b) provide ample opportunity to
    facilitate the work being performed.

•   Debrief if Appropriate. It’s always
    a good idea to debrief with the
    person you assigned work to if the
    project merits it. What went well?
    What could have gone better?
    These are opportune moments to
    greatly improve both the work
    product and the working

Like all skills, practice makes perfect.
Though the list of steps above seems
long, the steps are logically
interconnected and flow easily once you
acclimate yourself to the process.
Improving your delegation skills will
greatly improve both your own practice
and those of the people with whom you

Paul H. Burton is a former attorney, software
executive, and successful entrepreneur. He
works exclusively with professionals and
professional service firms, providing his clients
with consulting, training and coaching on
leadership skills, individual productivity, and
business development. Paul frequently speaks
and publishes on professional development
issues. You can learn more about Paul and his
practice at

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