The cure for the overworked and overwhelmed attorney


I don’t know a single attorney who wants to work more. Oh they want more work, they just don’t want to work longer hours.

Unfortunately, we have been trained to believe in an absolute correlation between our income and the amount of work we do, but that correlation simply does not exist.

As a young lawyer starting my career, I had very little work and an income to match. When I finally learned marketing and starting bringing in more clients, naturally, my income and work hours increased. Eventually, I had lots of clients and incredibly long hours, obviously proving there is a correlation, right? Well, that depends.

I realized that I wasn’t happy working so much but I wasn’t willing to cut back my schedule if it meant cutting back my income. I struggled with this for a long time and, thankfully, I figured out how to do it. I was able to significantly reduce my work week without reducing my income. In fact, when I got things fully underway, my income took a dramatic leap.

There were a few things I did to make that happen. One of those was to get comfortable with delegating.

Attorneys are famously bad at delegating. There are a number of reasons, ranging from fear that the person to whom the work is delegated will screw up, to ego, the notion that, “nobody can do it as well as I can.” I had a little bit of both going on in my head; it took some effort to come to terms with these beliefs, but I did.

On the “screw up” issue, I realized that I would still be supervising my employees, I was the failsafe. I also realized that happiness (or a successful law practice) doesn’t require the complete absence of risk. Risk can be managed. That’s why God created “E & O” policies, after all.

As for the idea that I was the best one for the job, I simply had to accept the premise that if I was ever going to have relief from eighty hour weeks, “good enough” would have to be good enough.

Once I crossed the threshold of acceptance,  I began to see that there were many functions in our office I could let go of and, in fact, there were many functions where I really wasn’t the best person for the job. Once I started the process of handing over responsibilities to others and saw that the sky did not fall and, in fact, good things were happening, I embarked on a quest to delegate as much as possible. Eventually, my philosophy was to only do that which only I could do, and this was a major turning point in my career.

If you are overworked because of reluctance to delegate (or delegate as much as possible), I urge you to do as I did. Change your philosophy and learn some techniques. Your kids will be glad you did.