I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

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I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:25 am

Title pretty much says it all. I am a second year associate at a 30-lawyer civil litigation firm. Partners here do everything from divorce to foreclosure to employment lw to personal injury to basically everything.

As the junior associate, weird assignments from seemingly every area of law have been thrown my way. What I'm finding is that I become so obsessed with figuring out the law that I am missing important factual details--constantly.

For instance, I filed a cross-claim in a foreclosure action in August. We maybe needed to serve by publication in October and, upon closer review of the file, the subject property was worth one-third what I thought. That obviously meant our cross-claim wasn't worth pursuing, and we were forced to dismiss, and I had to go to the partner with egg on my face.

I seemingly miss stuff like this all the time. I've heard the "don't beat yourself up, you're an associate," but I'm entering year 3 next year and I need to limit these types of mistakes. Also, the workers comp attorney is retiring in June, and he likes me, so maybe I'm in a position to inherit his book. His sole client is General Motors and he makes a killing. But if I have a reputation of not paying attention to detail, no chance in hell workers' comp work comes my way.

So, I am really hoping for some advice on here about how to pay attention to detail better. What do you do when you review a file? Do you take notes? Do you dictate a memo? How do you approach new assignments?

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby zot1 » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:35 pm

For my work product, my usual M.O. is: when I think final draft is done, I put it away and reread the next day (if you can't wait until the next day, I would still give yourself a few hours). If possible, that last review is in print. And if time allows, I ask a colleague or a paralegal if they'd like to take a look.

Before the above happens, I've probably reviewed the document several times before I think it's ready for final draft. I'm pretty obsessive about my work product being perfect so I review until it's no longer feasible to do so.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:31 am

I suck at this too and I've received criticism about my attention to detail. Really afraid that my position has already been permanently jeopardized.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:59 pm

I'm a midlevel associate now. I remember when I was a first year, I was absolutely awful at spotting stupid mistakes and errors. I felt like a total idiot. As you gain experience you will improve your attention to detail. With that said, don't overly beat yourself up. When I go through my firm's document management system to find a good template, I see tons of mistakes in documents drafted by partners. It is impossible to be 100% perfect. In my opinion, attention to detail only becomes a problem when partners think it is a problem. Often times, this is related to your reputation at your firm. If you have a great reputation early on for attention to detail, partners are more likely to overlook mistakes and wouldn't read your documents as carefully. If you are known around the watering hole to be sloppy, your documents will get a much closer examination... Nothing good happens when your documents are examined at a microscopic level.....

This actually happened to me. I felt that I improved a lot after my first year, but I was already labeled as somewhat sloppy and on every review for 2 years, people would tell me that I have to work on my attention to detail. After lateraling to a new biglaw firm, I was extremely careful the first 3 months or so and I spent extra time proofreading (I didn't bill for that extra time). Then after the first 3 months, I went back to my normal document drafting process. I've been with the firm for over 1.5 years and no one has ever comment about needing to work on my attention to details.

Bottom line, first impressions are absolutely critical your success. If you need a second chance, you should lateral to a new firm. However, before you lateral to a new firm, you need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and improve on your weaknesses. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 1:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Bottom line, first impressions are absolutely critical your success. If you need a second chance, you should lateral to a new firm. However, before you lateral to a new firm, you need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and improve on your weaknesses. You only get one chance to make a first impression.


This is such good advice. I started out at a biglaw firm in a major market and made a ton of tiny attention to detail mistakes while starting out. I actually did understand the law well, but lost the respect of partners through making small mistakes and lost a ton of self confidence as a result. I didn't get pushed out or fired, so I have no idea what the ultimate repercussions of these mistakes would have been. Instead, I realized that I would never make partner (lots of Harvard personality types...not a good fit for me) and left for another biglaw firm in a different market. Best decision I ever made. Now, I'm suddenly impressive because I spent my first 2 years making little mistake somewhere else. I didn't make those mistakes when I started at my new firm. When I do occasionally still make small mistakes, it doesn't matter as much because people trust me here.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 2:22 pm

Do you really think a few stub year mistakes necessitates a lateral move?

I like my firm, it has a lot of premier practice groups in this market, but a couple partners have definitely noticed my mistakes and called me out for it (not publicly, just noted them to me.) I was sort of told that everyone makes mistakes at first, including typos and attention to detail, and that what happens during stub would be forgiven, as long as you work hard and show that you're trying to learn and improve. The above advise is kind of freaking me out.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby 84651846190 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:08 pm

People who suck at attention to detail should not go to law school.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:26 pm

ExBiglawAssociate wrote:People who suck at attention to detail should not go to law school.


Too late bro

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you really think a few stub year mistakes necessitates a lateral move?

I like my firm, it has a lot of premier practice groups in this market, but a couple partners have definitely noticed my mistakes and called me out for it (not publicly, just noted them to me.) I was sort of told that everyone makes mistakes at first, including typos and attention to detail, and that what happens during stub would be forgiven, as long as you work hard and show that you're trying to learn and improve. The above advise is kind of freaking me out.

Just fix it.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby 1styearlateral » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you really think a few stub year mistakes necessitates a lateral move?

I like my firm, it has a lot of premier practice groups in this market, but a couple partners have definitely noticed my mistakes and called me out for it (not publicly, just noted them to me.) I was sort of told that everyone makes mistakes at first, including typos and attention to detail, and that what happens during stub would be forgiven, as long as you work hard and show that you're trying to learn and improve. The above advise is kind of freaking me out.

You really do suck at details.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:25 pm

ExBiglawAssociate wrote:People who suck at attention to detail should not go to law school.


Whoops.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Bottom line, first impressions are absolutely critical (to) your success. If you need a second chance, you should lateral to a new firm. However, before you lateral to a new firm, you need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and improve on your weaknesses. You only get one chance to make a first impression.


This is such good advice...


Whenever I put that I am detail-oriented on an application, I feel like a lawyer.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:46 pm

1styearlateral wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Do you really think a few stub year mistakes necessitates a lateral move?

I like my firm, it has a lot of premier practice groups in this market, but a couple partners have definitely noticed my mistakes and called me out for it (not publicly, just noted them to me.) I was sort of told that everyone makes mistakes at first, including typos and attention to detail, and that what happens during stub would be forgiven, as long as you work hard and show that you're trying to learn and improve. The above advise is kind of freaking me out.

You really do suck at details.


thanks. not helpful.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby 1styearlateral » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
1styearlateral wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Do you really think a few stub year mistakes necessitates a lateral move?

I like my firm, it has a lot of premier practice groups in this market, but a couple partners have definitely noticed my mistakes and called me out for it (not publicly, just noted them to me.) I was sort of told that everyone makes mistakes at first, including typos and attention to detail, and that what happens during stub would be forgiven, as long as you work hard and show that you're trying to learn and improve. The above advise is kind of freaking me out.

You really do suck at details.


thanks. not helpful.

Why don't you try proofreading your work? Subscribe to/download Grammarly or something. Nobody wants you to save an hour if your work product ends up riddled with errors.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:52 pm

Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby zot1 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.


Holy crap, where did you go to school? I'm anal about typos because of my professors.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby RaceJudicata » Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:06 pm

zot1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.


Holy crap, where did you go to school? I'm anal about typos because of my professors.


My professors are ruthless on written assignemnts (papers, briefs, etc.), but on timed finals (which is the majority of my law school written work), they don't give a crap. In a 3 hour rat race final exam, there are inevitably typos and none of my professors have ever even mentioned these. Nor would I have time to spend more than 15 minutes (if I'm lucky) correcting them.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby zot1 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:10 pm

RaceJudicata wrote:
zot1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.


Holy crap, where did you go to school? I'm anal about typos because of my professors.


My professors are ruthless on written assignemnts (papers, briefs, etc.), but on timed finals (which is the majority of my law school written work), they don't give a crap. In a 3 hour rat race final exam, there are inevitably typos and none of my professors have ever even mentioned these. Nor would I have time to spend more than 15 minutes (if I'm lucky) correcting them.


I mean, I'm pretty sure we didn't get docked for typos either in timed finals, but no professor ever told me typos didn't matter. That's what my comment was referring to.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby trebekismyhero » Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:17 pm

zot1 wrote:
RaceJudicata wrote:
zot1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.


Holy crap, where did you go to school? I'm anal about typos because of my professors.


My professors are ruthless on written assignemnts (papers, briefs, etc.), but on timed finals (which is the majority of my law school written work), they don't give a crap. In a 3 hour rat race final exam, there are inevitably typos and none of my professors have ever even mentioned these. Nor would I have time to spend more than 15 minutes (if I'm lucky) correcting them.


I mean, I'm pretty sure we didn't get docked for typos either in timed finals, but no professor ever told me typos didn't matter. That's what my comment was referring to.


I actually had a professor 1L say that misspelling things on the timed final wouldn't matter. But I had another professor that said typos would be deducted from our scores on a final.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby 1styearlateral » Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:Not OP, but the "nobody wants you to save an hour if..." advice isn't helpful, because nobody intentionally makes errors to save time. It's a hard adjustment, because you go from professors flat out telling you not to worry about typos to them being an important part of your day like the flip of a switch.

RJ pretty much nailed it, but my point was that there are very few circumstances in the real world where an associate is given three hours to complete an assignment. Essentially, if you TAKE YOUR TIME you're far less likely to make a mistake, whether it be a typo, a step in civil procedure, or what have you. Just by reading OP's posts I can tell that he/she takes zero time to proofread their work.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:44 pm

First, OP, good job pinpointing your areas of improvement.

Second, make a list. There're so many things going on at once that the best way to keep track of it all is to write it down. In your mortgage case, try listing out everything you have to do, including check the value of the property (twice or three times, on different days so you don't repeat your calculations.)

You'll be okay. Shit happens.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby encore1101 » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:42 pm

OP, it seems like people are giving you advice aimed at fixing typos or grammatical mistakes when your example was actually a substantive issue -- you overlooked the value of some property in a foreclosure action. IMO, that's a pretty significant detail.

That being said, I understand what its like to be so occupied researching the law that you overlook the facts. My advice would be to spend at least the same amount of time, if not more, familiarizing yourself with the facts of your case as you do the law. Remember, even when the law seems favorable to you, you can still lose your case if the opposing party is able to present a more favorable (to them) version of the facts. And, overlooking facts may cause you to neglect to raise otherwise meritorious arguments.

I work in criminal appeals, and my strategy in writing a brief is to first read the defendant's brief to know the legal claims that he is making. I do some brief research of the law if I don't know the claim, but I won't spend more than a few hours. Then, I devote a few days entirely to going over the transcript and papers of the trial. I write down any possibly relevant detail that was elicited at trial, even if it seems not related to the claims being raised on appeal. It's only after I've digested the facts that I do an indepth research of the law.

Now, I don't know how applicable my strategy would be to you (time-wise or otherwise), but, at a minimum, you should be able to support any factual allegation that you make in your papers. If you said that the value of the property was $1,000,000, you should be able to point to a document that lists that as the value of the property, especially if there's some sort of factual premise that is necessary for a claim in the first place.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:19 am

As far as improving typo errors, I have some tips. I used to make a lot of errors in college, and, because I was an English major, it was the worst feeling to get a paper handed back with red circles over misspelled words/incorrect commas/and so on. I made a conscious effort each assignment to not make mistakes I did before, and I can now say that I have substantially improved my writing and proof reading.

To really get better at proof reading your own work, try:
1.) Having a genuine desire to actually improve. I think I got significantly better at proof reading because I honestly hated the feeling of making stupid mistakes and mistakes that would have been found and remedied if my eye had caught them.
2.) Like others said, print out a copy. Reading out-loud can help also.
3.) When proof reading, go literally word by word. Take a careful look at each word and say it in your head, don't just speed read through it. Each word should be seen and given individual care.
4.) Realize your common mistakes and pay special attention to them. For me, it was abuse of commas, passive voice, and verbosity. After having these weaknesses being pointed out by multiple professors, I finally realized that these were my largest areas for improvement/areas where the majority of mistakes came from. Now, I am always on the lookout for comma use, passive voice, and wordiness. It is basically subconsciously drilled into me now when I read my own work.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:38 am

OP here. I appreciate all the responses.

Someone else already noted this, but my issues are not with typos or dumb writing errors. If anything, I've heard through the grapevine that I've established a great reputation as a legal writer. One of the rainmakers here pretty much always allows me to take a stab at his legal briefs and then doesn't make many changes.

My errors thus don't have to deal with proofreading or any of that. They deal with simply missing things in the file, not recognizing the importance of a fact, not recognizing that "x" fact triggers "y" statute (in large part because I don't know "y"), etc.

Another example on top of the one in my original post has to do with discovery responses. We are involved in a significant noncompete case. I was responsible for turning over discovery and I ended up turning over a document that was TERRIBLE for our client. The partner asked "is there anything bad" beforehand and I said no, not really. But I don't know how I freaking missed this. We turned it over and, after looking at it again, I couldn't believe that I let this document get to the other side. The partner talked me off the ledge and basically said, "Well, this was squarely responsive and relevant, I don't think we could have objected to this in good faith, we had to turn it over anyway."

But I just missed it, and I don't have any idea how I missed it, and the entire ordeal was embarrassing.

I've done a few things to help lately: close Outlook on my computer, put my phone in a filing cabinet across the room and turn off its notifications, block internet sites, etc. That seems to be helping, but my big problem is that I think I'm doing something wrong when I am reviewing a file. Something is up with my process that is leading me to not pick up on things. And it is that problem for which I am seeking advice.

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Re: I F'ing Suck at Attention to Detail

Postby RaceJudicata » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I appreciate all the responses.

Someone else already noted this, but my issues are not with typos or dumb writing errors. If anything, I've heard through the grapevine that I've established a great reputation as a legal writer. One of the rainmakers here pretty much always allows me to take a stab at his legal briefs and then doesn't make many changes.

My errors thus don't have to deal with proofreading or any of that. They deal with simply missing things in the file, not recognizing the importance of a fact, not recognizing that "x" fact triggers "y" statute (in large part because I don't know "y"), etc.

Another example on top of the one in my original post has to do with discovery responses. We are involved in a significant noncompete case. I was responsible for turning over discovery and I ended up turning over a document that was TERRIBLE for our client. The partner asked "is there anything bad" beforehand and I said no, not really. But I don't know how I freaking missed this. We turned it over and, after looking at it again, I couldn't believe that I let this document get to the other side. The partner talked me off the ledge and basically said, "Well, this was squarely responsive and relevant, I don't think we could have objected to this in good faith, we had to turn it over anyway."

But I just missed it, and I don't have any idea how I missed it, and the entire ordeal was embarrassing.

I've done a few things to help lately: close Outlook on my computer, put my phone in a filing cabinet across the room and turn off its notifications, block internet sites, etc. That seems to be helping, but my big problem is that I think I'm doing something wrong when I am reviewing a file. Something is up with my process that is leading me to not pick up on things. And it is that problem for which I am seeking advice.



These sound like purely substantive mistakes. Others with more experience may be more helpful, but I think a lot of this takes time and will get better with experience. Just take extra time when reviewing stuff.

I also would not--ever--close out outlook. Don't want to miss an important email, ever.



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