Lawyers love to do the right thing. So they question: when is the right time for me to delegate in my law firm? I can tell you there is no bat sign in the sky like on Batman or any specific regulations that govern when a law firm is ready. The answer is a lot more informal. In fact, this question is actually two questions!
- The first question is: how do I know I’m ready to delegate?
- The second question is: how do I know my business is ready, can it afford the expense?
Lawyers worry about the cost of delegating and what happens if they can’t provide work to the team. These are big questions so let’s break them down into bite-sized bits. First, how do you know you’re ready to delegate?
You are ready to delegate now!
Outsourcing is simply asking someone outside your law firm to help you inside your business. There is no standard age for a law firm or income level needed before you can ask for help in your business. In fact, a startup firm that uses the expertise and wisdom of freelance talent gains a big head start over other firms.
Delegation is a great way to grow yourself as a businessperson, grow the skills of others and create a team that can save you from burnout and exhaustion. The better you get at delegating, the more time you can invest in the creative, fun parts of your business.
I define delegation as communicating to the Talent you selected how to help you, and setting them up for success. The Talent is your independent contractor or freelancer. That’s not terribly complicated, is it? You delegate all the time as a lawyer, parent or spouse.
What makes delegation tricky is that you may not be confident you’ll get the help you need and want. You can ensure a better outcome by following these steps. It’s important when handing over a project or task to someone else to:
1. Know your purpose and desired outcome
What do you want and why? Of course, you know, but sometimes we forget to clarify, even for ourselves. Recently, a client told me she wanted a new website to launch her business.
Once we got talking I discovered through questioning that she really needed a theme installation and customization, not web design.
Tell your Talent what your endgame is and how the project fits into your overall plan. It will motivate your Talent and clarifies your interests so the Talent can make some decisions independent of you.
2. Be able to clearly describe your purpose & outcome (and what you don’t want)
Describing what you want is trickier than you think. I still screw this up when I’m rushing. Saying what you want is different than knowing it. Why?
Each one of us is unique in how we experience the world and express ourselves. That means good does not mean the same thing to you as it does to me. It’s subjective. You want to be objective when giving instructions and setting the standard for performance. Your freelancer, or teammate as I like to say, has to know your standard before they can achieve it, including things you don’t want as well.
3. Select the right person for the task
You want to match the person to the task to have a win-win situation. Does the person have the right experience, knowledge, temperament, skills for the job?
Delegating inside your law firm is a great way to grow your team and their skillset. It gives you a way to prepare him or her for increased responsibilities (and give your leadership muscles a test). You’re looking to match their interest & knowledge with your project as a means of growing new skills.
Outsourcing requires you to make a closer match between the skills needed and your desired goal. The Talent or teammate should already possess the skills and talents you want when you hire him or her.
The key is to give the person what they need to succeed then step back. I call this the Pre-Go phase. Be available for questions and clear that you are depending on this outcome.
4. Give direction and feedback
Hands down, giving direction and/or feedback is one of the most sensitive communication/delegation skills.
As kids we receive the message from our families, schools, and organizations NOT to judge other people. So it feels awkward and wrong somehow to judge and evaluate the performance of others. That discomfort magnifies if you, yourself, have lacked something in the past.
Yet, when you are paying someone to help you achieve a goal, you have the right to give them clear-eye feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It’s not a personal attack; it’s simply data the person needs to adjust their performance.
Be very specific and give examples when offering feedback and direction.
how to grow your law practice by outsourcing
5. Let go of micro-managing
Micro-managing defeats the purpose of delegation and wastes your precious time. It says more about you than anything else.
We micromanage when we fear a poor outcome. A great outcome is within your control. Use the Pre-Go phase to prepare the person well with a clear purpose: the end goal and authority to make decisions. Then, be around for questions. That’s all the managing you have to do.
Delegation is a process. Start now and grow into it. Your law business will thank you.
About Dina Eisenberg, Esq.
Dina is a lawyer/Ombuds turned award-winning entrepreneur. She is the CEO of OutsourceEasier.com, a consulting & training firm dedicated to helping solo and small firm lawyers delegate, automate and grow to $500k without burnout. She loves seeing lawyers stand in their truth and own their power.