Delegating ought to be straightforward. After all it’s just about being clear what you want someone to do and by when. Right?
It turns out that most junior lawyers say they don’t always experience good delegation. Too many files are left on desks with a vague note saying ‘Please Fix it!’ Sometimes there’s no ‘please’!
There are all kinds of reasons for this behaviour. Many senior associates think it’s quicker and easier to do the work themselves. Others point out that they haven’t received any training in delegating and supervising the work of others.
Here’s an eight step process as a checklist:
- Identify nature of task/client – this is probably not a big deal but it means you’ve done a bit of thinking before you start.
- Check the relevant knowledge & experience of the person you’re delegating to – and check their work load and other priorities
- Provide context on the client and the matter itself – junior lawyers complain this isn’t always done well and they don’t see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture
- Specify precise output & constraints – for example there may be cost constraints and important deadlines
- Check understanding of task – this is often omitted leading to work needing to be re-worked
- Invite/give suggestions regarding how to proceed – this depends on the level of experience of the person delegated to
- Consider/agree monitoring and review procedures – it might be inappropriate to expect the junior to come to you (they might not!)
- Ask the junior to summarise and clarify the first step – this is a good way to check if you have missed something out or if there’s been a misunderstanding.
The level of detail you need to provide is contingent on your analysis of risks and of the other person’s level of experience (skill) and commitment (will).
Sherwood believes that firms are not maximising the learning that they offer junior lawyers. Too much work is done by senior associates that could be done by juniors. There are cost and margin implications arising from this. Your firm may have a more motivated cadre of junior associates if they are learning and motivated by having more stretching work delegated to them.
But remember to delegate properly, don’t just deledump!