Making mistakes

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Making mistakes

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:20 pm

I’m about five months in to biglaw and yesterday I made my first real no-doubt mistake. It wasn’t huge (didn’t derail a deal or ruin a case), and it didn’t go outside the midlevel and partner on the matter. But it was fairly straightforward - I definitely should have caught it - and it caused both of them extra work. I estimate the midlevel spent a few hours on something that was a total waste of time because of the error I made.

Curious what’s the best way to handle this. I already sent a couple quick apologies by email. They have gone unacknowledged. On one hand, people say that first-years mess up all the time; on the other, people say that your work is expected to be impeccable and I’m worried about making an obvious (if not earth-shattering) error so early in my time here. I’m inclined to just move on and pretend it didn’t happen (while ensuring it doesn’t happen again) but I can’t help but shake the thought this could stick with me in the minds of these two people unless I handle it right. Who’s been through this, from either perspective?

JohnnieSockran

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby JohnnieSockran » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:28 pm

Probably going to need a bit more details about the mistake you made to give any advice, because it will depend on whether this is a normal mistake juniors make or if it actually is something worth being concerned about.

shock259

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby shock259 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:46 pm

It's really hard to know when what happened is described this vaguely, but as a general matter, as long as the client didn't learn of it and your firm didn't look particularly stupid to opposing counsel, it's probably OK. Again, hard to draw conclusions with the level of detail, but I would guess this is something the senior associate should have caught.

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Guchster

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Guchster » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I’m about five months in to biglaw and yesterday I made my first real no-doubt mistake. It wasn’t huge (didn’t derail a deal or ruin a case), and it didn’t go outside the midlevel and partner on the matter. But it was fairly straightforward - I definitely should have caught it - and it caused both of them extra work. I estimate the midlevel spent a few hours on something that was a total waste of time because of the error I made.

Curious what’s the best way to handle this. I already sent a couple quick apologies by email. They have gone unacknowledged. On one hand, people say that first-years mess up all the time; on the other, people say that your work is expected to be impeccable and I’m worried about making an obvious (if not earth-shattering) error so early in my time here. I’m inclined to just move on and pretend it didn’t happen (while ensuring it doesn’t happen again) but I can’t help but shake the thought this could stick with me in the minds of these two people unless I handle it right. Who’s been through this, from either perspective?


Hard to advise, especially since juniors haven't been trained yet to understand how big or small of a mistake is--some people (i.e., most big law lawyers after hazing that is our jobs) make mountains out of molehills when in reality you should just sweat it and sometime what seems like a silly mistake is actually a huge deal that needs higher level triage.

PM me if you want more specific advice.

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jkpolk

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby jkpolk » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:25 pm

Even if you're doing the best job you can, you'll still make mistakes, every human does. As long as you're being thorough and asking questions (or doing follow-up work) where there are holes in your knowledge/information and elevating as appropriate, you're fine. Corporate is very much a team game, there's a reason why important docs go through a process. Just move the ball as well as you can (in the time you have).

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:30 pm

jkpolk wrote:Even if you're doing the best job you can, you'll still make mistakes, every human does. As long as you're being thorough and asking questions (or doing follow-up work) where there are holes in your knowledge/information and elevating as appropriate, you're fine. Corporate is very much a team game, there's a reason why important docs go through a process. Just move the ball as well as you can (in the time you have).


Very much agree with the above. Mistakes are bound to happen - I think they key is overall striving to be thorough and detail oriented. The lawyers you work for will expect there to be mistakes - that is why there are multiple levels of review - and if your work is generally good, people will look past small errors here and there. Especially with fee sensitive clients, it becomes cost prohibit and inefficient to let perfect become the enemy of good enough.

You may feel embarrassed that the mid level had to step in and fix the mistake but that is their job and they are ultimately responsible for the work product. When I work with a first year, I know that I will have to closely review their work and its on me if I don't give them clear enough instructions or check in periodically to make sure they don't spin their wheels.

All that said, if the reason the mid level had to step in was because you missed a deadline without giving them a heads up or if you clearly just didn't care/put in the effort and handed in work that was obviously awful, or if you told them you handled something when you really didn't - that could be a significant issue. But honest mistakes that stem from your lack of experience are par for the course.

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:08 pm

First years can't do a thing without screwing up. I'd apologize in person, say you learned from it, see if there's anything else you can do to help.

tyroneslothrop1

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby tyroneslothrop1 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:45 am

Always strive to learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. Most people understand when a junior attorney makes an error. But if you repeat the same mistake over and over you will rightly develop a rep for either not caring or being unable to learn.

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Monochromatic Oeuvre

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Monochromatic Oeuvre » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:it didn’t go outside the midlevel and partner on the matter.


If you don't have to apologize to the client, it doesn't matter and everyone will immediately forget about it.

people say that your work is expected to be impeccable

I’m about five months in to biglaw


Pick one.

I estimate the midlevel spent a few hours on something that was a total waste of time because of the error I made.


Midlevels spend way more than a few hours a year fixing the mistakes of juniors. It ordinarily takes longer to explain the assignment and fix junior fuckups than it would be just to do it themselves, which is a tremendous waste of time. Not coincidentally, the firm bills by the hour.

Who’s been through this, from either perspective?


Literally everyone who's ever worked in Biglaw.

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Yugihoe

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Yugihoe » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:17 am

Monochromatic Oeuvre wrote:


LMAO this was such a great breakdown. 180. Thoroughly enjoyed.

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Re: Making mistakes

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:36 pm

OP here. Appreciate the feedback. After a day of panicking I'm pretty sure it's not as big of a deal as I was worried about - although I am never going to make that particular mistake again.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like the most egregious errors are the ones that go to the client or require them to find out about it (obviously), the ones where you blow past a deadline with no warning, the ones where your work shows you just didn't care/didn't try hard, and the ones you repeat. What I did doesn't check any of those boxes, fortunately. It's just jarring to have been going along smoothly so far and then have the first real "Oh shit, yeah that one is entirely my fault" moment.



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