Civil litigation attorney, Kerith Kentish, shares his advice on how to effectively delegate legal work to clerical staff in order to avoid solo attorney burnout.
As a solo attorney, I find it useful to lean on my administrative staff to take some day-to-day tasks off my plate. This helps me create efficiencies in my practice and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
I recently shared my advice for combating solo attorney burnout, where I listed delegation as a key solution. While delegating can greatly reduce stress, you have to make sure you’re doing it right in order to get the results you need.
When delegating to administrative staff, I have four recommendations:
1. Spend time training them
The most important part of delegation is taking the time to properly train your employees. I have seen the benefits of this.The most important part of delegation is taking the time to properly train your employees Click To Tweet
I was reminded of the value of proper staff training just last week when I was away in London for an appellate matter and one of my clients took an unplanned trip to Anguilla. He dropped by my office while I was out. Yikes!
Despite my absence, my clerk was able to competently draft the necessary papers for filing and send them to me for review. In that instance alone, my investment in training was returned.
2. Double-check their work (of course), but let them try to find the mistakes.
In my practice, all of my employees can draft certain affidavits, basic purchase and sale agreements, acknowledgment letters, company formation, preparatory documents for closings and pre-action letters, because I took the time to teach them.
Whenever I review a clerk’s work, if there are mistakes I ask them to review the document again to identify what might be wrong so they are able to learn.
There is a connection between building staff competence and loyalty because people like that you are improving their lives.
3. Know what the file is about
If you are pressed for time and have to review client documents in preparation for a meeting, it helps the review process if you know the file.
Do not forget that you are the lawyer and your clerks are only assisting you. It is your responsibility to be familiar with every piece of work being produced by your firm, even if you did not produce it yourself. Be disciplined about scribbling some notes about every file to help jog your memory.Do not forget that you are the lawyer and your clerks are only assisting you. Click To Tweet
4. Create checklists for court filings
What must they do before a document goes out? Is the paper size correct? Are documents printed double-sided? Are all pages properly bound and paginated? Are the names spelled correctly? Is the case number correct?
It isn’t necessary for a sole practitioner to physically prepare bundles, but you should not leave any room for error if you delegate the task to someone else. Having to re-do administrative work, like re-submitting five 200-page bundles because they were not paginated and double sided, leads to solo attorney burnout.
I cannot state how important it is for a solo practitioner to invest time into building a competent, reliable clerical staff. As Richard Branson once said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees they will take care of the clients.”
About Kerith Kentish
Kerith T. Kentish is a Civil Litigator and ADR professional practicing predominantly in a highly respected family firm in Anguilla. He obtained his LLB from the University of the West Indies (Barbados), his LLM from the Schulich School of Law (Canada) and his LEC from the Hugh Wooding Law School (Trinidad). He is admitted to practice as a Barrister in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the circuits of Anguilla (2012) and the British Virgin Islands (2013). Kerith is currently the Vice President of the Anguilla Bar Association, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a solo practitioner with Joyce Kentish & Associates.