Have you ever delegated work to a contract or associate attorney and been disappointed with the result? It may be that you need to improve your delegating skills. Here are some tips to help you get the results you want.
There are many reasons to delegate legal work to another attorney. Maybe you don’t have the time to do the work or you want to use someone with a lower billables to save your client money. But neither of these goals will be met you’re forced to have the work redone or, even worse, have to do it yourself.
If you make assignments and expectations clear, and get confirmation that the other attorney understands what’s expected, you’ll get the most useful assistance with the least frustration.
Here are tips for working with contract or junior attorneys:
- Provide background information. Most individuals understand an assignment better if they’re given sufficient detail to appreciate how the assignment fits into the overall case and objectives.
- Describe the result expected. It’s frequently helpful, for example, to provide a copy of a similar product, pointing out strong and weak aspects.
- Give time guidelines. State how much time to devote to the assignment. If the guideline is only an estimate, indicate that. Direct him or her to inform you if significantly more time is required than was initially anticipated.
- Make priorities clear. Explain the relative importance of the assignment and whether it should be placed ahead of or behind other matters previously assigned. If there’s a conflict with an assignment received from another attorney in the office, contact that attorney to work out the priority between the two projects.
- Set a completion date. Make sure the project deadline is clearly stated and reasonable.
- Direct to potential resources. These resources could include primary law and practice guides, other attorneys in the firm, and case files that have involved similar issues.
- Clarify responsibilities. Make sure that you have clearly set out the division of decision making between you and the other attorney.
- Keep in contact. Say how and when you’ll check on progress—and then do it! Give the other attorney the opportunity to raise any questions.
- Be respectful. Contract and junior attorneys are professionals just like you. Having less experience than you do or working on a temporary or part-time basis shouldn’t change the way you treat them.
For advice on the many things they never taught you in law school about law office procedures, turn to CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chapter 1.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- Business Plan Basics
- How to Get and Handle Retainer Fees
- Steps Toward a Healthier, Happier (and More Productive) Law Office
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