How to work effectively with your assistant

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hen you work effectively with your assistant, it really helps you to focus on high value tasks and earn more revenue in your law firm. 

So peeps, here is the truth. You will not grow your law firm and achieve your goals if you’re bogged down doing $10 tasks. 

What is a $10 task? 

It’s one that you’ve attributed $10 worth of value to. Something like putting the bins out, cleaning the office or dropping off the dry cleaning.

One of those small things that so many law firm owners do, and means they’re bogged down with that stuff instead of focusing on the high-value tasks that they actually need to do to grow. 

Perhaps you’re a lawyer who is doing all the things. 

You do everything in your law firm and as a result you feel like you’re treading water. You’re on the hamster wheel, and while your law firm is doing OK, it’s not growing, it’s not getting any easier, and you’re still busy as hell.

Or, perhaps you’re a law firm owner who has an assistant to take care of those sort of lower value tasks, but you’re struggling to get the relationship and the flow of work to gel. 

So here’s what I know. 

Before I got an assistant, I was stuck doing a range of things. 

One thing I used to do – and this is ridiculous – but in our server room back in the day, we had a dehumidifier that had to be emptied every day or else it would stop working and the room would turn to shit.

I used to do that. Every day I would come in, including on the weekends, and empty the dehumidifier. It was ridiculous. 

Once I got an assistant, a lot of those kinds of tasks were taken off my plate, but it took me a while to figure out how to actually work effectively with an assistant so that I was really freed up to work on those high-value tasks.

And I should also say that when I say “assistant”, this goes for secretary as well. Some people have personal assistants, some people have executive assistants, some have secretaries. Some people have VAs, which stands for virtual assistants. 

Regardless of what you call that role, everything that I’m talking through still applies. 

So, today I want to talk you through the four things, or the four tips that I have on how to work more effectively with your assistant. 

#1: Document it

Your assistant cannot read your mind. 

A lot of law firm owners feel like assistants should be able to read their minds, but it’s just not going to work out that way. 

What you need to do is document as much as you possibly can of the things you expect and the things you need. 

So, for example, if your assistant needs to book a certain hotel for you when you go to a certain city, you need to document that really clearly. 

Sometimes that involves teaching them how to do a task – and it could be something a little bit complicated that you need to walk them through, or there could be a lot of those tasks.

You only need to do that once if you document it properly. 

A good way to do that is to use a video recording software that will follow you on your screen. You can go for it, do the task, then share that video with your assistant so they can watch the process that you followed and have it there for reference. 

Also, when you’re asking your assistant to do these things, get them to document it for you as they go. That means that when it comes to promote that person, or that person leaves, when you hire a new person into that role, there’s already a really good foundation for them to get started on. 

#2: Use tools

Using workflow and project management software is SO important when you’re working with an assistant.

It’s so easy for things to get lost in the flow of everything else, so it’s important that your assistant knows where everything is at. That also means you can check in to see what’s going on quickly and efficiently when you need to.  

A couple of tools that spring to mind are Trello, which has boards for specific projects, and Asana, which is good for projects and workflows as well. 

Getting your assistant to set those up and actually make sure they use them as you expect is really important.

That kind of leads on to my third point, which is…

#3: Have meetings

Having regular meetings with your assistant is super important.

I know that we can often feel like we’re too busy and that meetings are awkward and pointless, but it’s REALLY important that you get into a regular meeting rhythm with your assistant. 

Usually, a daily meeting is going to work best for you and your assistant so that you can pick up momentum and get excess stuff off your plate. 

You need to do this daily because otherwise your plate will pile up with little tasks, so this gives you the chance to offload certain things so you can focus on high value stuff.

Doing it daily also means you can start to trust that they’re going to get things done properly. 

Now, you may work with a virtual assistant. A lot of people have assistants working remotely now, and this next tool is great for coping with that (it’s also just great for communicating with your team in general).

A tool that we use here at Automio, and that I use particularly with my assistant, is Voxer. 

Voxer is like a walkie-talkie, you speak into it. But it’s in real time. The person you’re talking to can listen to you speak in real time and you can chat back and forth like that. 

It also means that you can get your message across to them and they can refer back to it later to make sure they’re picking up everything that you’re putting down. 

#4: The 5% rule

The 5% rule means you need to free up enough time to work on the 5% of work in your law firm that actually moves the needle. 

So, obviously you need to figure out what that is – but it may not be as apparent as you think. 

This is where a time study is really important. And the longer you can do a time study for, the better. 

Yes, I know that sometimes they’re a bit painful, but as a lawyer, at some stage in your career you will have noted down every six minutes of your time, so you should be a pro at this. 

A time study is all about noting down everything that you’re doing, both at work and outside work.

Doing it outside work is important too, because if you’re doing laundry all weekend then that’s probably a sign that you need to get some help with that. 

But in terms of what you’re doing at work and the sorts of things that you can get your assistant to help with, look at being able to do the tasks that really move the needle. 

I like to categorise different tasks into $10, $100, $1,000 and $10,000 tasks. 

For example, a $10,000 task might be approaching a new partner to develop a partner strategy for a new marketing initiative that could lead to $100,000 of revenue. 

A $1000 dollar task is probably your normal client work.

A $100 task might be doing a post on social media, maybe replying to some low-level client emails.

A $10 task, as I said before, is basic chores like putting the rubbish out.

When you do this time study, you’ll notice patterns – especially with those lower value tasks. So you can start to delegate those $100 and $10 tasks that are taking up too much of your time to an assistant, so that you can focus on the 5% that will really move the needle for your business.

It’s super important, but you really need to understand what those 5% tasks are first of all, which is why the time study is so useful.

If you’re interested in scaling a law firm, or building, designing and selling online legal solutions and learning about how to do the marketing around that, then there’s plenty more for you to discover over in my Savvy Lawyers Facebook group.

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