Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

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LawFail29

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Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby LawFail29 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:11 pm

Hey guys,

I just started at a large firm (v30) in October. Lately I’ve been concerned about the number of edits my work gets from my supervising attorneys (I’m getting a lot more than I recieved as a summer). Is this normal? Should I be concerned?

On a related note, does anyone have any suggestions on how I can improve the quality of my writing? :? :?

delusional

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby delusional » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:30 pm

I think this is a common anxiety among incoming associates - it certainly was for me. It is most often unfounded. Written work product, IME, tends to be iterative. You draft something, the mid-level overseeing you improves on it and circulates to a group, the group has comments, you put in revisions, your revisions get taken out by some anonymous person up the chain, etc. etc. It is especially frustrating as a junior, because nobody bothers to ask why you put things in before they get stricken. But it also does not mean that you are doing a terrible job drafting.

Of course, it is also possible that you are doing a terrible job drafting. But (depending on how many different attorneys you get work from) if your work was really terrible, there would be no second time. If a couple people have come back to you more than once, you probably have nothing to worry about even if they marked your work up heavily.

JusticeJackson

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:34 pm

.
Last edited by JusticeJackson on Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chipshoote

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby chipshoote » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:01 pm

I also feel like supervising attorneys like/feel the need to get that red pen out and say "this is how it's done." I can't tell you how many times I have copied a brief or motion from a partner, used it in my own motion/brief, handed it to them, and get it back with their own words scribbled out and some suggestions.

As another person said, if they come back, you're probably doing fine.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:00 pm

As a senior associate, I make a point of telling juniors that I'm a heavy wordsmither, and "it's not them, it's me." They still don't love their work being edited heavily, but at least they know it's not intended to be a direct comment on their work quality.

(To a prior commenter's point, before I delete particular things, I do reach out to ask why they were included if I can't follow the reasoning. Often there's a good point that the junior was trying to make but didn't draft as clearly as s/he might have.)

I also feel like supervising attorneys like/feel the need to get that red pen out and say "this is how it's done." I can't tell you how many times I have copied a brief or motion from a partner, used it in my own motion/brief, handed it to them, and get it back with their own words scribbled out and some suggestions.


How do you know you're using the partner's own words? There are any number of reasons they might not like the wording in the prior brief - maybe a client insisted on including it, maybe they couldn't wordsmith the last draft as heavily as they'd have preferred due to timing constraints, etc. Of course, if you are specifically aware that a partner insisted on including specific wording the last time you work with them, and the next time they criticize that same wording, then that's pretty funny.

LawFail29

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby LawFail29 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:37 pm

OP here:

I’m not getting mean comments or anything, it just freaks me out when I open a Word Doc and see that my supervising attorneys have done extensive red lines. It makes me feel like there’s something I’m not getting.

jd20132013

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby jd20132013 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:30 pm

Stop

SFSpartan

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby SFSpartan » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:47 pm

If people are coming back to the well and giving you more work after extensively redlining, that means you are doing fine. It's easy to freak out as a junior (I've been guilty of having this exact freak out), but mentally, you'll be better off if you can keep these particular thoughts at bay.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby RedGiant » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:59 pm

LawFail29 wrote:OP here:

I’m not getting mean comments or anything, it just freaks me out when I open a Word Doc and see that my supervising attorneys have done extensive red lines. It makes me feel like there’s something I’m not getting.


Two things:

One--are you getting "the same" comments over and over? If so, that is a matter of concern. Otherwise, it is likely just as others have said--people above you simply want to say it differently.

Two--I have noticed in biglaw, that you can't really bill for making no edits. Therefore, people make edits. This is not necessarily reflective of what's on the paper...they just feel the need to mark it up because it's in front of them...even if it's fine.

I would try to speak with a midlevel, as suggested, to find out whether you are getting a "typical" amount of comments or there's something awry. Also, I do think it's useful to keep a running tally of specific partner's quirks, if any, so that you know--Bob hates parentheticals, Fred likes to use "See" etc.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:48 am

Like 90% of what I've written for 3 years has been rewritten by somebody more senior, if it's an important document (going to client, a filing, etc.). Same is true of every other junior I've worked with---I think it's completely normal. I think of it like: "My job is to make their life easier by doing the grunt work, and make them aware through the draft of what I think they need to know...then they get to rewrite a draft instead of starting from scratch." Usually the senior people are better than the junior people at the job and so improve the writing...occasionally they make it worse. Just learn from how they edit it, or just don't pay attention to the edits if you don't care. It isn't common in my experience to get a "nice job on this" / "great work" because a lot of seniors just say nothing and then ask for more work (though some people will give positive feedback routinely). It's hard to know in the no-feedback situations that people are actually happy or whether you are satisfying standards, but I just wouldn't sweat at it all. These are people busy, don't typically give feedback, and are (usually) complete maniacs. Try hard-ish and you're almost certainly doing the job just fine.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby ggocat » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:38 am

LawFail29 wrote:Is this normal? Should I be concerned? On a related note, does anyone have any suggestions on how I can improve the quality of my writing?

Depends what the edits are... technical (i.e., you suck at commas and citations), stylistic (e.g., "the plaintiff argues" vs. "Mr. Jones contends"), or substantive (i.e., you're logic isn't flowing, or the sentence structure and word choices are distracting from the argument).

Step number one is determining which category an edit falls into. Sometimes this can be tricky. It's always a good idea to discuss writing with the editor to understand why certain edits were made. You won't become a better writer unless you know the "why."

If you have technical edits, you can fix them by reviewing style guides and having a finer attention to detail. If you have stylistic edits, you can fix them by simply mimicking the language that your supervisors choose--usually by trial and error, hopefully learning after the first edit. If substantive, you could probably benefit from writing seminars, books, etc. A good mentor will help improve your substance by answering the "why" questions.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:47 pm

One of the partners I work for makes edits I simply don't understand.

Just for example, in a purchase agreement, she'll change "any claim or cause of action" to "any claim, suit, or cause of action, wherever brought" (doing it from memory, but you get the point).

In construing the language, would a court really read the language differently one way or another?

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby kalvano » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One of the partners I work for makes edits I simply don't understand.

Just for example, in a purchase agreement, she'll change "any claim or cause of action" to "any claim, suit, or cause of action, wherever brought" (doing it from memory, but you get the point).

In construing the language, would a court really read the language differently one way or another?


People have phrases they like or that work for them.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 5:06 pm

FTFY
kalvano wrote:
People have phrases bullshit ways to bill 0.5 hours and tell the client they made substantive edits they like or that work for them.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 5:14 pm

As you work more closely with partners, especially partners who are actually good writers, you'll see that this is part of the process. I work with a partner who is an incredible writer. She she goes through her own work she makes significant edits. Try to look at the edits and internalize the writing style, and learn how to see writing as a process.

If there weren't deadlines, there are partners who would spend weeks rewriting things.

I'd only get worried if they stop asking you to write things, or if they don't even bother with a redline.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby lolwat » Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As you work more closely with partners, especially partners who are actually good writers, you'll see that this is part of the process. I work with a partner who is an incredible writer. She she goes through her own work she makes significant edits. Try to look at the edits and internalize the writing style, and learn how to see writing as a process.

If there weren't deadlines, there are partners who would spend weeks rewriting things.

I'd only get worried if they stop asking you to write things, or if they don't even bother with a redline.


Yeah, this. I work with some appellate lawyers and they tend to be the ones that edit heavily and do multiple rounds of edits. Because there, it's basically the quality of writing that matters a lot. Trial courts and other everyday BS, not so much.

For transactional dox or other agreements and shit, just know that sometimes courts have already analyzed certain phrases ad nauseum in cases, so if you're being told to use a specific phrase there's sometimes a reason for it. Other times, it's just lawyers using legalese, which is stupid, but you'll just have to follow whatever the partner wants.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby cookiejar1 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One of the partners I work for makes edits I simply don't understand.

Just for example, in a purchase agreement, she'll change "any claim or cause of action" to "any claim, suit, or cause of action, wherever brought" (doing it from memory, but you get the point).

In construing the language, would a court really read the language differently one way or another?


This is probably just a case of internal consistency. If she’s not editing to track similar language in the agreement itself, she’s probably tracking language used in another ancillary document (cleaner drafting) or precedent agreement (client is already signed off on / opposing counsel has agreed to such language in the past).

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby 84651846190 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 9:38 pm

jd20132013 wrote:Stop

shock259

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby shock259 » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:57 pm

This is your chosen profession, so try not to let it get to you. As others have said, you'll eventually get better at breaking down comments into categories. Did you entirely miss a major issue? That's not good. Did the partner just clean up your language? Less of a concern, and you'll get better at minimizing these comments once you work for that person more. Did you make lots of grammatical or spelling mistakes? Not good - slow down and proofread carefully.

Also, once you build some rapport with the partner, ask for feedback when they give you something back. Also, if you missed something major and still don't understand why, it's good to ask or you'll keep missing it. Otherwise, try to digest the comments and learn from them.

But at the end of the day, a ton of junior and mid level work gets ripped to shreds, and that doesn't necessarily mean you did anything wrong. Part of the job.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby ghostoftraynor » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:32 am

I get the feeling, but you need to stop worrying. I use precedent that was heavily vetted, and it gets torn to shreds. When someone hands me something that was precedent, heavily vetted, I tear it to shreds. Every situation is different, and the words that worked last time, may not be right this time. That's why there is multiple layers of review. It's an iterative process that tends to work.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:46 pm

Some senior people also just aren't that great but think that they are. It's a thing. Be calm, carry on. Also try to have some fun. it will help with the anxiety.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:46 pm

delusional wrote:I think this is a common anxiety among incoming associates - it certainly was for me. It is most often unfounded. Written work product, IME, tends to be iterative. You draft something, the mid-level overseeing you improves on it and circulates to a group, the group has comments, you put in revisions, your revisions get taken out by some anonymous person up the chain, etc. etc. It is especially frustrating as a junior, because nobody bothers to ask why you put things in before they get stricken. But it also does not mean that you are doing a terrible job drafting.

Of course, it is also possible that you are doing a terrible job drafting. But (depending on how many different attorneys you get work from) if your work was really terrible, there would be no second time. If a couple people have come back to you more than once, you probably have nothing to worry about even if they marked your work up heavily.

I'm never quite sure what this means. At my firm once you're on a team you're on the team and people come back to you even if you suck. If there are multiple juniors most assignments are just sent out to all the juniors on the team, and first to reply does it. Or if there's just one, they do everything. Or, at least that's what it seems like. Is this not the case elsewhere, or am I just misreading the situation? Second year, for context.

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Re: Biglaw associate freaking out about edits

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
delusional wrote:I think this is a common anxiety among incoming associates - it certainly was for me. It is most often unfounded. Written work product, IME, tends to be iterative. You draft something, the mid-level overseeing you improves on it and circulates to a group, the group has comments, you put in revisions, your revisions get taken out by some anonymous person up the chain, etc. etc. It is especially frustrating as a junior, because nobody bothers to ask why you put things in before they get stricken. But it also does not mean that you are doing a terrible job drafting.

Of course, it is also possible that you are doing a terrible job drafting. But (depending on how many different attorneys you get work from) if your work was really terrible, there would be no second time. If a couple people have come back to you more than once, you probably have nothing to worry about even if they marked your work up heavily.

I'm never quite sure what this means. At my firm once you're on a team you're on the team and people come back to you even if you suck. If there are multiple juniors most assignments are just sent out to all the juniors on the team, and first to reply does it. Or if there's just one, they do everything. Or, at least that's what it seems like. Is this not the case elsewhere, or am I just misreading the situation? Second year, for context.
I do not have experience with people choosing to work with someone after they screwed up. To the contrary, IME, if someone screws up on one thing, people stop going to them on anything, which actually ends up being counterproductive.

That said, all I meant to make was the obvious point - if a senior associate chose to come back to someone, that person's work is likely alright. If the assignment system is such that they don't have the opportunity to choose whether to work with a particular junior, it would obviously not support the conclusion that the work is alright.

ETA: Accidental anon. I am the first quoted poster above.



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