November 28, 2018

5 Ways to Delegate Without Hiring Staff at Your Small Law Firm

This is a guest post by Jess Birken, owner of Minneapolis-based Birken Law Office and Hack Your Practice.

Lawyers tend to glorify being busy. I mean, don’t lie. You hear these things ALL the time:

“I’ve been in back to back meetings since 9:00 am. I didn’t even have time to stop for lunch!”
“I’m on my fifth cup of coffee. I was at the office until 1:00 am last night.”
“I hope I can make it home before my kid’s bedtime tonight.”

And, even worse, we say these things with a weird kind of pride. Why are we proud to work ourselves so hard that we neglect our health and our families? We’ve swallowed this myth that the best way to work is to burn the candle at both ends. But how does that leave you at the end of the day? You’re exhausted, and your to-do list is still a mile long.

It’s time that we work smarter, not harder. It’s time we embrace delegation.

And I don’t mean hiring a bunch of staff to take everything off your plate. For a bunch of reasons, that just isn’t a good option for a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delegate.

Here are five things you can do to lighten your workload without hiring staff.

1. Give up doing the books.

I’m guessing that keeping up with the books is NOT a favorite part about your practice. Be honest with yourself – is it worth it for you to continue doing the bookkeeping? Did you go to school for accounting? If not, then why are you trying to play accountant? “But I’m only spending an hour on it each month.” Well, then you aren’t doing a very good job, is my guess. Or if you’re spending several hours every month (and probably doing it a little bit wrong), then consider what you’re not getting. You’re giving up those billable hours – or your child’s soccer game. Time is finite; you’re giving up something to be your own bookkeeper for no good reason. It might be time to outsource your bookkeeping.

I’d suggest Juris Bookkeeping – they focus on bookkeeping for law firms, I use them at my firm and they’re amazing.

2. Let someone else answer your phone.

Yes! You’ve finally found time to sit down and work on the Carter file that is way overdue…and your phone rings. Womp, womp. You don’t want to miss a call from a potential client, but this two-hour chunk is the ONLY time you have to crank out some work. Have you ever had this dilemma? You know you have.

But you don’t need to hire a receptionist or an assistant to answer the phones – there’s Smith.ai! With their virtual receptionists, your phone calls will always be answered professionally, even when you need to go into blackout mode. (Thinking about this one? Take $50 off your first month with promo code JESSB50.)

3. Have clients set up their own meetings with you.

The back-and-forth of “No, Tuesday’s no good here, what about Wednesday?” makes my brain HURT. I hate it, and it’s a massive time suck. Instead, I use Acuity Online Scheduling to streamline scheduling appointments, and it’s a lifesaver. I use it for a ton of things: booking client meetings and phone calls, networking, even scheduling and taking payment for consultations. If you’re interested, you can see a video tour of all the ways I use Acuity to delegate the drudgery of scheduling here. (Bonus points: Share your public Acuity scheduling link(s) with your newly minted Smith.ai receptionists and have them schedule appointments and call-backs on your behalf.)

4. Outsource that project you’ve been avoiding.

Do you have a project that you just don’t want to do?  Maybe something you’ve been avoiding because it’s a pain? Or worse, something you know you should be doing, but just haven’t been able to find the time for? Great. You can pay someone else to do it. No employees required.

On freelancer.com, or (Upwork or Fiverr) you can just type up a description of your project and find someone to get it done. I mean anything from the smallest project (filtering data in a spreadsheet, reorganizing your digital files) to more advanced stuff like building a website. You can work with someone on this one project with no long-term commitment. It’s SO worth it for the random projects that need doing, but take up too much of your time and energy.

5. Hire a virtual assistant or paralegal.

If you’re not ready to hire your own employee but would like to start some serious delegating, consider hiring a virtual assistant or paralegal. What can they do for you? Try having them sort through your inbox, handling all emails except the ones that require your lawyer-mind. Or have them work as a go-between for you and your clients. Or have them complete conflict checks and lengthy intake that are beyond the scope of work Smith.ai’s receptionists typically handle. The possibilities are endless. Trust me: It’s so worth having someone to help out. Try Belay — all their virtual assistants are U.S.-based and college educated.

Now what?

These are just five tips — tips of the iceberg, really. There are SO many more ways to start delegating. Working yourself to death isn’t good for you, and it isn’t good for business. You are your law practice, so don’t be afraid to take a few things off your plate. Remember you only get one life on this earth, so use your time in ways that help you enjoy your life and your law practice a little bit more.  

Sit down, right now (yes, right now) and list three small and concrete tasks you don’t want to do or shouldn’t do that you can delegate in the next two weeks. I promise, once you start, you’ll never look back.

Did I miss a way you delegate in your practice that you absolutely can’t live without? I’d love to hear about it. Find me on Twitter or at www.hackyourpractice.lawyer.

About Jess Birken

Jess Birken is a solopreneur lawyer at Birken Law Office who helps nonprofits solve problems so they can stop worrying and get back to their mission. When she's not lawyering, she's helping other lawyers change their lives and their law practices through her Hack Your Practice project. Find Jess on Twitter: @JessBirken.

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