“In most organizations, the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle.”
— Peter Drucker
If someone else can do something 70% as well as you can, delegate it.
As lawyers, we tend to try to handle everything ourselves. It gives us a sense of control.
The old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” is something I can certainly relate to. I found, though, that I was doing way too much and realized that trying to handle 17 things at the same time was probably not good for my productivity — or my sanity.
I was getting overwhelmed and running in place. That was a huge disservice to my staff, my clients and most importantly, myself.
Something needed to change if I wanted to move forward and have a more enjoyable and rewarding practice. It became evident that delegation was necessary.
Once I started delegating, I soon discovered that it was a total game changer. It was becoming obvious to me that my practice was growing the more and more I delegated. A subtle yet powerful mind shift had occurred, and it was liberating and transformative. The bottleneck at my office was me, and I was finally getting out of the way.
Of course, delegation is not possible for all tasks. Taking a deposition, trying a case, etc., are tasks that perhaps only you can do at your office. But it is amazing how much truly can be delegated once you take an honest assessment of the things you do each day that you need to stop doing immediately in order to be most productive and useful to your firm.
You should not be doing $20-an-hour tasks, or even $100-an-hour tasks if you can leverage your time better with higher-value work. Get the monkey off your back and delegate those tasks to someone else. After all, your professional advancement will move forward at the rate at which you can delegate. Moreover, your support staff wants to do these tasks for you.
Therefore, commit to set yourself and your staff free by delegating (or delegating more than you currently are). Your staff is probably better at doing those tasks anyway (even if they won’t tell you so), so step out of their way. If you are a solo, consider hiring a virtual assistant you can delegate to.
Delegation, though, should not be confused with abdication. As lawyers, we are ultimately responsible for our clients’ cases. If our staff makes a mistake that impacts a client, we are on the hook. You, therefore, are delegating not responsibility but rather ownership of a task.
But before delegating anything, always communicate the following three things to whom you are delegating:
1. Be clear on how the work should be done.
2. Be clear on what a successful outcome will look like.
3. Give a hard deadline on when you need and expect the work to be done.
Commit today to delegate one task you know you need to stop doing. Then, constantly look for other things to get off your plate. You will be amazed at how this shift in thinking will free up your time to work on those things that you are best at doing.
Christopher F. Earley practices law in Boston attorney and concentrates his practice on the representation of the seriously injured and their families.