You should strive to delegate every kind of work that does not require a law license to do. And, as much as possible, you should delegate legal work to others as well (e.g. paralegals, associates).
You can leverage your knowledge better when you spend more time doing the kind of work you are best at doing. But delegating can be difficult for most busy lawyers.
Many lawyers believe they’re not good at delegating when the truth is they just need to develop their delegation skills through practice. The first step is understanding “levels of delegation.”
You’ll be more effective at delegating to other people when you’re realistic about what each person can actually do. That is, you need to learn to assess their level of delegation.
Let’s assume that you’re working with someone new and need to determine what their level of delegation is.
The general rule with someone new is to assume they’re at the lowest level (unless you have good reason to believe they’re at a higher level, in which case you need to decide which level they’re best classified into).
The 5 Levels of Delegation
Here’s what the person should be expected to be able do at each level.
Level 1: Follow the exact steps set out in a documented procedure given to them (which you’ve carefully documented beforehand). After the task is performed you will provide them with feedback based on the results of their work.
Level 2: Identify best options to achieve an end goal and report back to you on those options. Review the options they discovered, and direct them which one to pursue (this helps them learn how you make assessments and how you make decisions based on those assessments).
Level 3: Figure out the single best way to achieve the end goal, and take action to achieve the goal. Then report back (via a regular weekly status meeting). You should provide feedback, and then ask them document their process for future use by others.
Level 4: Use their best judgment to do any routine tasks (and update existing documentation, if necessary). You should give monthly feedback to workers at this level (during a regular review).
Level 5: They should start training others in the firm to do documented tasks (i.e people at Levels 1 or 2). You should have weekly meetings to monitor progress of both the Level 5 trainer and their students.
The key thing to remember when you’re first starting to delegate work is that you can’t assume that people know things that they don’t know.
You need to figure out what they actually know, or assume they know nothing or next to nothing.
You have to be methodical and strategic about how you delegate work.
If you do it right then you’ll be less involved in the early stages of training someone new. And eventually you won’t be involved at all.
Using a tool like SweetProcess makes it easy to create a repository of “instruction sets” for people you will be delegating to, many of which can easily be virtual assistants.