6 Tips for Delegating Legal Work

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 21, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There is no class on delegation in law school.

The closest thing is a lecture on the non-delegation doctrine, which teaches that Congress cannot delegate certain duties to administrative agencies. So what is an attorney to do when it comes to knowing how to delegate legal tasks?

Because developing delegation skills is not part of legal education, corporate counsel need to learn from other disciplines and mentors in the workplace. Charles A. Volkert, writing for Minority Corporate Counsel Association, says delegating offers distinct advantages for both managing counsel and the people they lead.

"By communicating a more holistic view of company goals and enhancing project- and team-management abilities, counsel can help their departments meet the complex challenges they face today," he says.

Here are some tips:

1. Know When Not to Delegate

Certain clients or others with whom lawyers have developed a long-term relationship may require continued personal involvement. Although the most effective corporate managers try to avoid such dependence, counsel must take into consideration the personalities and preferences of their clients and their relationships.

2. Become Project-Minded

Corporate legal work involves complex activities requiring the talents of many different individuals, including those from other departments. Volkert says counsel should think of their roles not only as advisers but also as managers of a process -- for both their staff and other involved company managers.

3. Identify the Right Tasks for the Right Employees

Paige Zandri with Priori Legal, a network for managing outside counsel, notes that some legal tasks should be delegated to other employees in the company. Ethics rules and liability concerns weigh against delegating certain work to non-attorney employees, such as appearing in court or giving legal advice. But corporate counsel should delegate simple legal functions, such as routine filings and contract management, to non-lawyers.

4. Manage Before, During, and After

To comply with professional ethics and to maximize effective delegation, Priori Legal suggests, corporate counsel need to oversee the work of non-legal employees throughout their assignments. Create a clear, concise set of materials to help explain new tasks. Ideally, these materials can be standardized to minimize onboarding time for new employees.

5. Get Past the "I'll Do It Myself" Syndrome

In advising small businesses, Michael Manas with Entrepreneur says that good delegators learn to let go. If they think they have to do it themselves to get it done right, it becomes a formula for disaster because the company can't grow.

6. Call for Backup

The best business owners cultivate people who can take it over. For every delegated task, there should be a backup person for the task. This way, the business operations will never become dependent on one individual.

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