One of the partners I work for regularly assigns me work that could be done by a paralegal or his assistant. For example, he asked me to go through doc production that he reviewed and just add up all the page counts. Normally I don’t mind helping out but I am really busy with other work and these time consuming non-legal tasks sometimes make it difficult to stay on top of my assignments for other partners. Is there any way to say no?

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Why don’t you delegate it to a paralegal?

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Don’t think about it. Take the easy, brainless billing. The sooner you smash through your time sheet, the sooner you can go do things that benefit you directly.

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From a purely self interested perspective, this is a good problem to have when higher billables are job security.

My supervising partner used to be annoyed by excessive prebills showing I spent too much time on delegable tasks. and he's not wrong, though I think he failed to consider how long it can take just to tell assistants how to do things and review their work to avoid glaring mistakes. it's something I've addressed, probably increasing my realization rate, but also at the cost of what would have been billable time (even if partially reduced in the final bill). Which is not at all unreasonable, this is a client service business and clients shouldn't be paying over 800 an hour for cover letters saying "here are your documents."

Obviously from a firm perspective this partner is being an oaf and one can only hope the client isn't prone to sticker shock. Poor delegation from team leaders, in an hourly billing system, is essentially bill padding by negligence. Clients shouldn't put up with it. paralegals and secretaries exist for a reason; we are expensive specialists. Same problem drives up hospital costs (and has been increasingly addressed in recent years); doctors doing nurse work is simply bad human resource management.

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Ha ha ha. Haven't you ever driven to a golf club in a hurry to collect a partner's signature?

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I had a senior associate at my last firm who did this. It drove me insane. It drove the paralegals insane because they were like “hey, that’s what I’m here for.” His reaction was always along the lines of “I need this done right” and if I tried to delegate to a paralegal he’d say “you’re too junior to delegate work. Needless to say, there were other issues going on there and I’m thankful I don’t work with people who have that mentality anymore.

I think maybe approach him on the side and ask if he’d be ok with you delegating tasks like that down. Maybe it will give you some insight into why he’s doing that. Or just politely say you’re busy with other work but will get to it later. That may give him the hint.

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If you have too much billable work happening to do it, tell them you’re at your limit with work for (insert other people) and ask if delegating to the paralegal is ok. People are overall self centered and the partners don’t know what you’re working on for other partners unless you tell them. (Even then they will forget bc it doesn’t impact them personally)

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