What They Didn’t Teach You In Law School #6: How to Ask for Help

One thing that law school does not teach most attorneys is how to ask for help.

In our first year, we are required to study non-stop, read hundreds of pages of case law every night, complete legal writing assignments and do many other tasks with very little one-on-one attention from professors.

In addition, most law students are graded on a curve, encouraged to compete with other students and often required to work alone on essays and take-home exams.

Oftentimes, law school manufactures entire classes of overachievers and work productivity machines.

This is great for employers who want to hire determined, reliable associates, but at some point attorneys must learn to delegate their heavy workload, both in the office and out, so that they will be able to better serve clients.

can become overwhelming when you are juggling personal life, office management, and business matters on top of your law practice.

Some attorneys may have trouble letting go of control when they have been trained to do everything for themselves both in law school and in the early years of their practice.

Learning to ask for help can help you mitigate stress, and it can be key to your financial success because delegating work to the least expensive competent worker will increase production and profits.

Learn how to ask for help and what projects to delegate by following these tips:

  • Don”t wait until you are angry and frustrated with too much work before you consider bringing in reinforcements. Waiting will just create stress, and can even lead to illness.
  • Plan ahead by identifying each task that needs to be done by a certain date. Divide each task into three lists: eliminate, delegate, and do-it-yourself. Putting items in the eliminate list doesn”t mean you should cut corners to get a job done, but do you really need to spend two hours on the phone giving away advice to a client that has no intention of becoming a paying customer? In addition, don”t delegate a task that you can eliminate.
  • Is it your workload that is getting you down or is it that uncooked turkey waiting for you at home before the in-laws arrive for holiday dinner? Decide which tasks are causing the most stress in your life, and ask an employee, colleague, or family member for help.
  • Have a little faith in others. Believe it or not, but you are not the only person who can competently fill out a form, pick up the mail or run a copy machine. Delegate routine tasks such as initial research, drafting, photocopying, data entry, errands and other non-billable tasks to a law clerk or office assistant.
  • Be clear and specific about what help you need. If you give detailed instructions, people will know exactly what is expected of them and you will be confident that they can get the job done in your absence.
  • Stop complaining. If you are positive, others will want to pitch in, but it will be hard for people to have sympathy for a person that constantly whines.
  • Offer to help others. If you see that a colleague has work piling up on the desk, reach out and see what you can do to help relieve some of the stress during your own down time. It may seem cumbersome to do a little bit of work for free, but you won”t feel that way when someone returns the favor for you next month.
  • When you do get the help that you asked for, be sure to say thank you. A little bit of gratitude makes people feel valuable, and a valued helper is more likely to do the job well.