Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistakes?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 327246
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistakes?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:26 pm

- Typos?
- Poor grammar?
- improperly blue-booked citation?
- Missed an obvious argument?
- Misstated/misrepresented a fact?
- Missed a deadline?
- Etc.?

How egregious are these sorts of mistakes? How would a partner react? Would a summer associate get no-offered for any one of these alone?

I'm curious what expectations realistically are and what the bar on perfection is.

Jchance

Silver
Posts: 726
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:17 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Jchance » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:31 pm

Rule of thumb:
1. stuff you can catch had you proofread/edit--big no-no.
2. missing deadlines: you should look for another job ASAP.
3. substantive knowledge you wouldn't have known unless you have practicing experience--ok but you can only get to make each mistake once. Repeated mistake that you should have learned last time = see 2.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327246
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:34 pm

Jchance wrote:Rule of thumb:
stuff you can catch had you proofread/edit--big no-no.


Is it really that big of a deal? I'm sort of worried about this one. I can proofread something a dozen times but still have there be some minor typo/mistake that I missed.

mvp99

Silver
Posts: 1428
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:00 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby mvp99 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:38 pm

anyone here used grammarly or something similar before?

Anonymous User
Posts: 327246
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:41 pm

mvp99 wrote:anyone here used grammarly or something similar before?


I wonder if using grammarly would cause confidentiality issues? I think it all goes through their servers.

h2go

Bronze
Posts: 168
Joined: Sat May 30, 2015 8:38 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby h2go » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Jchance wrote:Rule of thumb:
stuff you can catch had you proofread/edit--big no-no.


Is it really that big of a deal? I'm sort of worried about this one. I can proofread something a dozen times but still have there be some minor typo/mistake that I missed.


You should definitely not have any spelling mistakes. It's not that hard to run a spell-check. You should also double check any numbers/dates. Some grammar stuff might be fine depending on how obvious it is and how long whatever you drafted was.

User avatar
hdivschool

Bronze
Posts: 111
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:41 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby hdivschool » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:02 pm

Depends on the partner. I doubt any of these alone would get an SA no-offered. Blowing a deadline is probably the worst.

run26.2

Silver
Posts: 991
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:35 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby run26.2 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:04 pm

Eh. If everything else is perfect, one typo (or even two) will not kill you because the partner probably won't notice. I recall getting getting good feedback on a couple of written assignments that I went back and reread and they each had at least one typo. I remember as a clerk recalling that if I spent long enough, I would find a typo in every single brief I read. Bottom line: most attorneys read fast, so they'll miss some typos. But if your work is riddled with them, or if they are combined with grammatical issues or issues related to analysis, you're dead in the water.

I don't say any of this to give you license to think typos aren't that big of a deal. To the contrary. You should always strive to make your work product perfect. But if you're a perfectionist and a thing slips through here or there, it is not the end of the world.
Last edited by run26.2 on Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

run26.2

Silver
Posts: 991
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:35 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby run26.2 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:10 pm

hdivschool wrote:Depends on the partner. I doubt any of these alone would get an SA no-offered. Blowing a deadline is probably the worst.

This is one of the most egregious.

Other bad ones are failure to find controlling authority, misstatements of the law or facts (especially of the fact because these are objective), inability to write coherently, and failure to follow directions.

rustyburger2

Bronze
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2014 5:12 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby rustyburger2 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:30 pm

run26.2 wrote:Other bad ones are failure to find controlling authority, misstatements of the law or facts (especially of the fact because these are objective), inability to write coherently, and failure to follow directions.


How bad is bad? Are we talking "how could someone make a mistake like this you incompetent fool get out of my office," or more along the lines of "Make sure you don't do this again, but hey it's okay we've all been there."

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4476
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby zot1 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:50 pm

Here's one story: SA gets assignment from partner who specifically states that he shouldn't bother with X issue. SA writes about other stuff but extensively about X issue. SA swears this is the only thing that was off during the summer he was no offered.

Assuming he in fact got no offered just because of this mistake, I think partially the biggest factor is that it happened directly with a partner. He or she probably felt like his or her directions to the SA were simple and he just couldn't follow it. He or she probably thought this SA wasn't worth developing.

My point of sharing this story is that you shouldn't take anything for granted over the summer. You haven't yet made it. You are not safe until you have that offer.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327246
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:10 pm

zot1 wrote:Here's one story: SA gets assignment from partner who specifically states that he shouldn't bother with X issue. SA writes about other stuff but extensively about X issue. SA swears this is the only thing that was off during the summer he was no offered.

Assuming he in fact got no offered just because of this mistake, I think partially the biggest factor is that it happened directly with a partner. He or she probably felt like his or her directions to the SA were simple and he just couldn't follow it. He or she probably thought this SA wasn't worth developing.

My point of sharing this story is that you shouldn't take anything for granted over the summer. You haven't yet made it. You are not safe until you have that offer.


Jesus you think that would happen at a vault firm with a 100% offer rate for the past 4 years? I mean I see how the guy messed up, but that's far from egregious.

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4476
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby zot1 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
zot1 wrote:Here's one story: SA gets assignment from partner who specifically states that he shouldn't bother with X issue. SA writes about other stuff but extensively about X issue. SA swears this is the only thing that was off during the summer he was no offered.

Assuming he in fact got no offered just because of this mistake, I think partially the biggest factor is that it happened directly with a partner. He or she probably felt like his or her directions to the SA were simple and he just couldn't follow it. He or she probably thought this SA wasn't worth developing.

My point of sharing this story is that you shouldn't take anything for granted over the summer. You haven't yet made it. You are not safe until you have that offer.


Jesus you think that would happen at a vault firm with a 100% offer rate for the past 4 years? I mean I see how the guy messed up, but that's far from egregious.


No, I don't think this would happen at every firm, but my point is that it can happen. This firm was V100 and if I remember correctly, had 100% offer rate up to last year. Which could also mean financial issues, right? But if that's the case, you don't want to be the one who is memorable because one stupid mistake.

I don't think y'all should stress too much about the possibility of making a mistake. You are gonna be more likely to make mistakes that way. Instead, concentrate on how you can polish your work product to a point that it's the best it can be within time and skill constraints.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:21 pm

To be fair, someone who writes extensively about something they were specifically told not to write about may not be great at self-assessment, either, so there may have been other things going on.

User avatar
ArtistOfManliness

Silver
Posts: 590
Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:56 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby ArtistOfManliness » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:28 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:To be fair, someone who writes extensively about something they were specifically told not to write about may not be great at self-assessment, either, so there may have been other things going on.


+1

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4476
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby zot1 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:29 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:To be fair, someone who writes extensively about something they were specifically told not to write about may not be great at self-assessment, either, so there may have been other things going on.


I don't discount that something else could have happened. That's why I said "assuming this was it" (paraphrased because too lazy to look).

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:39 pm

zot1 wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:To be fair, someone who writes extensively about something they were specifically told not to write about may not be great at self-assessment, either, so there may have been other things going on.


I don't discount that something else could have happened. That's why I said "assuming this was it" (paraphrased because too lazy to look).

Oh, yeah, I just wanted to point that out for the person freaking out.

dixiecupdrinking

Gold
Posts: 3440
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:10 am

In my experience, mistakes, even the occasional careless one, are not the huge fucking deal people often make them out to be. I've sent so many emails to partners where I forgot to finish a sentence, draft memos with incomplete citations, etc. If you're lucky enough to work for good people, they'll generally understand that you're human and will make mistakes (and that it's ok not to thoroughly proof and cite check an internal legal memo to quite the same degree of perfection as a court filing.

That said, especially when you're new, you should strive to avoid errors because, 1. you have no other skills to offer at first, and 2. you're establishing your reputation. But in my experience -- the stray mistake will not be held against you, if you generally do good work, are responsive, etc.

User avatar
jbagelboy

Diamond
Posts: 10281
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:57 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby jbagelboy » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:10 am

Jchance wrote:Rule of thumb:
1. stuff you can catch had you proofread/edit--big no-no.
2. missing deadlines: you should look for another job ASAP.
3. substantive knowledge you wouldn't have known unless you have practicing experience--ok but you can only get to make each mistake once. Repeated mistake that you should have learned last time = see 2.


IME this is very intense. I have experience with a firm that takes summer evaluation seriously and really the only one I'd corroborate is 2. I think missing a deadline without prior notice is universally shitty and makes you look very very bad. Typos, mis-numbering, minor grammatical issues, mis-citings, failing to address a sub-issue or leaving out a case, being overly objective when you're supposed to be persuasive and vise versa, formatting issues--at a 100% offer firm, all of this is recoverable and none of it is damning.

dixiecupdrinking

Gold
Posts: 3440
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:11 am

jbagelboy wrote:
Jchance wrote:Rule of thumb:
1. stuff you can catch had you proofread/edit--big no-no.
2. missing deadlines: you should look for another job ASAP.
3. substantive knowledge you wouldn't have known unless you have practicing experience--ok but you can only get to make each mistake once. Repeated mistake that you should have learned last time = see 2.


IME this is very intense. I have experience with a firm that takes summer evaluation seriously and really the only one I'd corroborate is 2. I think missing a deadline without prior notice is universally shitty and makes you look very very bad. Typos, mis-numbering, minor grammatical issues, mis-citings, failing to address a sub-issue or leaving out a case, being overly objective when you're supposed to be persuasive and vise versa, formatting issues--at a 100% offer firm, all of this is recoverable and none of it is damning.

Yeah - agreed.

BernieTrump

Bronze
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2016 5:54 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby BernieTrump » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:35 am

.
Last edited by BernieTrump on Thu May 11, 2017 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

shock259

Gold
Posts: 1853
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:30 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby shock259 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:54 am

BernieTrump wrote:Senior associate here. I've never written a bad review for anyone. I'll just request to be staffed with other people if juniors are bad, so I'm not the one to worry about.

But if you're worried, it's all attention to detail. Don't make me redo your signature pages at 4 in the morning when I get a chance to review them because you couldn't be bothered to get the company's exact legal name right. Don't make me re-input my own handwritten edits into a document because you couldn't be bothered to get it right the first time (after which you can never be trusted with hand marks again unless I have time to rereview). Don't get lazy and half-ass your diligence. Just because the first 50 customer contracts did something one way, doesn't mean the last one won't be their biggest contract and do something a different way. When we find that 24 hours before signing, that's how junior associates become smoking craters.

Nobody cares if you don't get the legal stuff, the customary practice stuff or the market precedent stuff. There's no reason you should know all that, even if you took all the right classes. Try not to make the same mistake more than once or twice, but everyone realizes you're new. Just don't be careless or lazy. And it's a sliding scale in biglaw. "Careless" here is extremely careful in normal jobs. We get paid to not have a single comma out of place in the docs. That's where a lot of the stress comes from.

I don't care about emails, spelling or grammar. I rarely care about anything outside of the real docs themselves. Just don't do anything too stupid or make us look stupid. Some people care more than I do, but the things above are the real issues, even for people who care about stupid shit.


3rd year here. This has been exactly my experience. Emails I receive from seniors associates and partners regularly have typos/missed words/half sentences. Yours shouldn't but there's a good chance your email won't be read in detail anyway (particularly if it is long). Just try not to make it glaring.

The docs themselves need to be perfect. I'm not trying to be a dick but you really need to be able to get a document free of plain errors (typos, etc.). There's always the stylistic changes and substantive changes that a senior associate may make. But they really shouldn't be correcting for commas or shit like that. As a junior, you are fortunate to have far more time on your hands than the seniors. Anyone has the ability to read something and correct 1) plain errors and 2) nonsensical provisions/busted cross references/etc. This is where you can actually help the team significantly. It's not glamorous but it is what it is.

Going back to OP's question, the bar for summer associates is pretty low. Most of the above applies more to juniors than to summers. No offense, but we expect very little from summers. Blowing a deadline is a sure fire way to piss people off, though.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327246
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
zot1 wrote:Here's one story: SA gets assignment from partner who specifically states that he shouldn't bother with X issue. SA writes about other stuff but extensively about X issue. SA swears this is the only thing that was off during the summer he was no offered.

Assuming he in fact got no offered just because of this mistake, I think partially the biggest factor is that it happened directly with a partner. He or she probably felt like his or her directions to the SA were simple and he just couldn't follow it. He or she probably thought this SA wasn't worth developing.

My point of sharing this story is that you shouldn't take anything for granted over the summer. You haven't yet made it. You are not safe until you have that offer.


Jesus you think that would happen at a vault firm with a 100% offer rate for the past 4 years? I mean I see how the guy messed up, but that's far from egregious.


That can't have been the reason he was not offered. This summer a SA at a NY V5 hit an associate at a party and still got offered.

User avatar
homestyle28

Gold
Posts: 2362
Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:48 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby homestyle28 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:32 pm

As a Jr. assoc who has given out a few summer memo assignments now there are only two things that would really concern me: a total inability to grasp the assignment/law (and even then I'd wonder if I didnt clearly describe something) and plagiarism. I've only ever seen the latter taken very seriously by others in my firm.

Esp as a litigator, the fetishism of typos is stupid. Everyone makes typos, if there aren't a ton it's not a big deal.

User avatar
Lacepiece23

Silver
Posts: 1053
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: Biglaw associates, what things are considered "acceptable" mistakes to make in a memo? What are unacceptable mistake

Postby Lacepiece23 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:51 pm

homestyle28 wrote:As a Jr. assoc who has given out a few summer memo assignments now there are only two things that would really concern me: a total inability to grasp the assignment/law (and even then I'd wonder if I didnt clearly describe something) and plagiarism. I've only ever seen the latter taken very seriously by others in my firm.

Esp as a litigator, the fetishism of typos is stupid. Everyone makes typos, if there aren't a ton it's not a big deal.


What do you mean by plagiarism?



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.