Delegate, Don’t Abdicate

This week’s practice tip features a guest post from Rachel Spence, a law clerk  with Wise Law Office, on the importance of delegation in our work.  This article was previously featured at Wise Law Blog.

– Garry J. Wise


Delegate, Don’t Abdicate

The  simple truth is that as legal professionals, we require effective delegation like we require oxygen to breathe. There’s no need to be shy about why.

Delegation helps us to:

  • relieve stress,
  • improve efficiency,
  • complete client work at a lower cost (delegating tasks to an assistant or clerk who have a lower hourly rate),
  • move ahead in our careers by having time to take on new tasks,
  • create workplace trust,
  • enhance our knowledge base and others

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to delegate efficiently and effectively:

  1. Communicate the task – When is it due? Why does it need to be done? Are there any obstacles that may get in the person’s way? If so, detail them and how they can be avoided or dealt with.
  2. Provide Support – Ensure the person you are delegating to knows whether equipment, outside training, periodic feedback and meetings for review at critical points in the task are necessary.
  3. Determine Expectations – Be clear about how success will be measured.
  4. Confirm Understanding – Confirm that your expectations are clear and ask for evidence of understanding.
  5. Feedback on Results – Email, call or chat with the person about the end result.

It’s important to note that you should not delegate if:

  • There is not proper time to explain what needs to be done and why. This is key for legal professionals. You need to know the why to get to the how;
  • If the task is undesirable and you’re just looking for a scapegoat;
  • The employee clearly does not have the capabilities to get the work done;
  • If time is a crucial factor and,
  • The employee does not have the authority to complete a task.

The most important lesson in delegation:

Do NOT take the task back once it’s delegated. If you do this, you’re not helping yourself or the person you delegated the task to. If the task was not completed correctly, identify where the breakdown in communication occurred and resolve it immediately. Don’t waste time pointing fingers.

All of this said, it is important to note that implementing a system of procedures for employees to naturally follow is perhaps a more thoughtful approach to efficiency.

If you’re interested in further information on this topic, check out the links below:

– Rachel Spence, Toronto

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