Learning how to delegate is a huge part of effective practice management for law firm associates. But in order to delegate effectively you must first define the job descriptions of everyone you work with at the firm.
The reason behind this is pretty simple: If you don’t understand with precision who is responsible for what, then how can you ever get clear on what constitutes delegable work?
And it’s not enough to define those roles simply by outlining a job description. You have to get a clear understanding of the specific tasks your secretary, paralegal, case manager, and colleagues are responsible for, and make sure that these roles are clear to anyone working on your team. They can change depending on the type and size of project and team members involved.
When you have a crystal clear sense of what’s in your job description and what’s in the job description of those you work with, then delegating becomes systematic–-and you eliminate miscommunications or time spent doing tasks that you are not responsible for.
The most difficult part of delegating is maintaining discipline. Sometimes we see an easy task in front of us–-something that's clearly in the job description of someone else at the firm–but we decide instead to spend 25 minutes to "just take care of it ourselves," thinking that it will make life easier.
But consider this: there are at least three major problems with this kind of thinking, and they’re all preventing you from being more efficient with your time:
Those 25 minutes you devote to an “easy” task add up over the course of a week and are stripping you of the time that you need to get your work done. Do someone else’s 25 minute task once a day and you’re burning over two hours of your time a week.
You’re preventing the other person from doing their job and creating confusion about what work they should be doing. You can’t do someone else’s work sometimes, and then expect them to take responsibility for the same work at other times. This is how things fall through the cracks.
Systems and workflows eventually break down and your team becomes inefficient when you don’t follow the rules everyone has agreed to.
To recap: understand the job descriptions of others, be disciplined in delegating, and put to good use the two hours of additional time you just created in your week.