June 22, 2018

Delegation Nation: How to Practice at the Top of Your Law License

This is a guest post by Jared Correia, CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting. 

Do you want to know the secret of getting paid a lot of money as a lawyer? Well, come here; I’ll tell you.  Closer. Wait for it.

"Do the things that only lawyers can do."

Sounds simple, right? Only, it ain’t. If you’ve ever tracked your time, you’d be shocked at how much "non-lawyer" work you do. How often do you pick up the phone when your secretary is out? How much time have you spent scheduling coffee meetings over the last year? Do you do first drafts of your documents?

Think about what your clients pay you for. Actually, I’ll just tell you what they pay you for: They pay you for your high-level advice and counsel. Things like creating a litigation strategy, or working out a thorny point of law, or finalizing a complex trust. What they’re not paying you for is answering cold calls or sending 50 emails back and forth before you figure out which Starbucks everybody is going to.

The smaller the firm, the more likely the lawyer is to dabble in administrative tasks. But, there is no more efficient way to substantially reduce your effective rate.

Fear not. There is a path forward, my friends. Walk with me, toward the light of delegation. Pay attention, and I will outline for you the two-step path to effective delegation and increased earnings.

1. Make a three-category list 

First, make a three-category list of everything you do, featuring the following three categories:

  1. Substantive work only you can do as an attorney
  2. Substantive work your staff can do
  3. Administrative tasks

You want to be doing number one as often as possible, and delegating numbers two and three as frequently as possible. You’re the only one who can bill out at $450 per hour; so, embrace that challenge. Do as much of that work as possible, and outsource and oversee the rest.

And, that does not mean that you convert your time saved into more time spent being a micro manager, unless you want your employees to hate you. Ask your staff to build out workflows (lists of tasks with due dates) for everything they do, and then review their progress online. Step in only when necessary — like when something important has been, or is about to be, missed.

2. Replace in-house personnel, or repurpose them

Second, use outsourcing and technology to replace in-house staff wherever possible. Small-business staffing is the moving target to beat all moving targets. But, as a managing attorney, you can take advantage of the shifting sands of modern employment.

In the first instance, a location-agnostic (remote) workforce backed up by cloud technology will save you traditional hardware and IT costs. However, you can also utilize technology to automate processes that were once entirely manned by in-person staff.  A virtual receptionist service, online chat, and web-based calendaring tools could take the place of an office staffperson, or several. Using and integrating softwares to manage a paperless workflow may remove the bulk of another traditional staff role.

But, this is not necessarily about avoiding making hires. It’s also about empowering the staff you do employ. If you can free up your assistant from answering calls and saving PDFs, s/he will have the time to instead create first drafts of documents, help with research tasks, and build marketing campaigns, all tasks that make better use of his or her expertise.

The chief differentiator that modern law firms can access is all bound up in taking advantage of technologies, to build efficiencies. However, in order to take full advantage of modern, exponential technologies, law firms must develop processes to support their highest uses. And, that starts with understanding and applying delegation principles.

About Jared Correia

jared correia

Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. 

A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW.  He regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column, ‘Managing,’ for Attorney at Work, and his ‘Law Practice Confidential’ advice column for Lawyerist. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’. He is the host of the Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network.

Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson; and, he tries to sneak Rolos when no one is looking.

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