Five Tips for Delegating A Legal Project With Confidence

Phone“But it would take less time to do it myself!” Sound familiar? Law school teaches us to analyze cases, not manage other people. Yet you can get only so far by doing it all yourself. Herewith, a few simple tips for when you need to delegate.

1. Choose a task that will repay your investment of time.

Yes, delegating will take more time than doing it yourself—at first. So start with a tempting target: a task you do often, don’t love, and would gladly give up if you could teach someone to do it as well as you do.

2. Know what you want.

As the expert on the task, you’re in the best position to describe what you need to have done. Make a mind map or checklist setting out each step in order, how long it should take, and what resources your colleague will need to complete the task. (This is a simplified version of Legal Project Management.)

3. Choose someone you trust.

Finding the right person also takes time, the first time. If you don’t have someone in your organization, there are outside options. Freelance attorneys are a great choice for legal projects because they should be quick to grasp the nature of the project. In addition, their bar admission can be easily verified, they’re subject to professional obligations including confidentiality and conflict-checking, and they may (should, in my opinion) have malpractice insurance.

4. Ask for what you need.

Never ask, “when can you have this done?” Tell your colleague exactly what you want, in what form you want it, and when (preferably a calendar date and time). Encourage them to speak up if that deadline isn’t doable. Ask for status updates the same way.

5. Welcome questions.

When no one questions the captain, the plane may crash. Accept that questions are part of supervision, and that being accessible now means less work—and fewer mistakes—down the line.

What tips do you have for lawyers who delegate legal projects?

Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN Posts

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