The Myth of Feeling Indispensable

Many lawyers and law firms have a difficult time scaling their practices.  Too often lawyers are the bottleneck in the decision-making process. I used to think that this was largely a function of not being trained to delegate, combined with not fully understanding the financial benefits associated with leveraging time.

Those factors are still relevant, but there seems to be a deeper reason why lawyers are reluctant to delegate. They pride themselves on their abilities and delegating most of the the work on a representation to others would prove that their legal skills aren’t necessary. Too many lawyers suffer from the myth of feeling indispensable. Sometimes as a consultant to lawyers and law firms it falls to me to disabuse lawyers of this feeling.

Here are some examples that are based on my real-life consulting work:

A transactional lawyer who says that they couldn’t possibly delegate work to an associate midway through a deal.

A litigator who says that they and they alone should draft a brief because they know the underlying facts better than any of their colleagues.

An elder law attorney who insists on personally creating every pre-bill for every client.

In each of thse cases I pointed out that, if for some reason the lawyer in question became unavailable because of illness, the firm would in the matter of few days find a suitable replacement.

Lawyers dont want to hear that virtually all of them are replaceable. That’s understandable. What is more perplexing is how few lawyers see the financial potential of building a work-flow system that allows a firm to serve clients without them being directly involved in every detail of every case. When lawyers fail to delegate and see themselves as indispensable they create an artificial ceiling on how much revenue they can generate. That ceiling is set by the number of hours the lawyer can work.

If lawyers want to maximize profitability they should seek to leverage the work of other lawyers and staff members. They should strive to minimize the extent to which their involvement  is required on non-essential decisions. That might make some lawyers feel less special, but that’s ok.