Work + Growth

Senior to Junior Delegating


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  • While it can be challenging, senior to junior delegating will be part of all lawyers’ careers
  • Delegation increases firm profitability, decreases senior attorney stress, and helps develop younger associates’ skills and knowledge
  • Even when you delegate, you must ultimately be accountable for mistakes

If you want something done properly, do it yourself. Right?

Wrong, actually.

Maybe if there were unlimited hours in every day, you could thrive as a lawyer without delegating some of your work. But the reality is, there’s only 24 hours in a day and you need to devote at least some of them to sleeping. There’s no way a law practice could continue to function without a fair amount of senior to junior delegation.

Delegating, however, doesn’t come easily to every lawyer. But as a critical component of a law firm’s operation, it’s something all lawyers should work to master.

Why Is Delegation Important?

There are a host of reasons why more senior attorneys must strive to become effective delegators. Here are three of the big ones:

Profitability: Strong delegation increases a firm’s profitability. Think about it: It costs more to pay senior lawyers than it does to pay their junior counterparts. If more junior associates can tackle certain work, a firm’s cost of delivering services decreases.

Growth: Delegating promotes growth for attorneys at every level. For more junior associates, new tasks increase their knowledge and abilities on the job. For senior attorneys, learning to delegate both provides the opportunity to focus on more strategic work and increases critical team management skills.

Stress: If you’re able to offload some of your more basic tasks, you can create more time and flexibility in your schedule, either to tackle more work or to squeeze in some of that elusive work-life balance you’ve heard so much about.

In what ways does—or could—delegating tasks to others help your work-life balance?

Who Do I Delegate To?

First, it’s critical to build relationships with your team members. Work to develop trust, understanding, and mutual respect with junior associates. Once you have an understanding of your team members’ strengths, preferences, needs, and even weaknesses, it becomes easier to determine to whom you can delegate specific tasks.

On top of that, it’s also smart to think strategically before you delegate work. How can you get tasks completed at the least expensive rate that’s commensurate with your clients’ needs? Consider whether any special training or expertise might be needed, and delegate accordingly.

Am I Doing It Right?

So you’ve decided to prioritize delegation and have identified junior associates to whom you can assign work. What are your next steps to be effective?

Start by explaining why the work is important, and the role it plays in the overall scheme of things; this is key to motivating a junior associate about any project. Be as clear and thorough as possible when explaining requirements and expectations, and make sure the person you’re giving work to understands everything. Provide realistic deadlines and answer any questions the junior associate might have. Finish your initial conversation by having them summarize the assignment details back to you just to make sure nothing has been misunderstood.

After the initial conversation, be approachable. Your team should see you as available to answer any questions and able to provide feedback without undue criticism. And lastly, make sure that you understand it’s up to you to take final responsibility for the outcome of every task you delegate. If mistakes are made, it’s on you to be accountable and to have any necessary, tough conversations.

How Do I Get Started?

Ready to up your delegation game? Start by assessing how much of your time is being spent on work that could be handled effectively by someone more junior. Think about those you work with who might be up to the task. Then, get to it!