I can't stop screwing up

(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: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:21 am

Hi all. Corporate 3rd year here.

I recently moved to a new firm (around 2 months ago) and ever since then, I can't seem to stop screwing things up. Not only am I not operating as an associate should at my level, I am screwing up basic things that even a first year shouldn't be doing (wrong language in documents, missing issues in sent over documents, lack of organization).

I have been trying as hard as I possibly can to fix it, but no matter what I do - checking, rechecking, printing everything, keeping checklists, calling and making sure I understand the assignment well, using the right form, trying to get a coach - the mistakes just keep coming, and it feels like I just can't pay the proper attention to detail or keep myself operating at the level that I need to work on... or really even close to it.

The group I work in is a seriously exceptional set of lawyers who all have it together and work on extremely tight and pressure-filled deals. They're wonderful people and have been patient with me so far, but that will stop in short order. You can't have someone around who's dead wood - or worse, a stone that sinks deals.

Frankly speaking, I think my career here is already over. Doubt I'll even last six months in total. But these problems are endemic - no matter where I go or what I do, they will follow me, and I have no idea how to solve them. I think I may just suck at having a job, and I really have no idea what to do to start climbing upward again.

Has anybody else encountered this problem or felt this way?

Please be gentle. Feeling absolutely horrible right now.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:08 am

I’m in a similar position. I keep making minor mistakes too. I think it has to do with the added stress of wanting to do well at the new job. I wrote a memo and apparently was mixing up past/present tense and misspelled a case name throughout. I don’t think they’ll judge me too much for the first 6 months and if the issues persist, they will have a talk with me then.

Making simple mistakes as a third year sucks, but I think the new firm will be more forgiving because you just lateraled

User avatar
jkpolk

Silver
Posts: 1236
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:44 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby jkpolk » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:19 am

Everyone makes mistakes (and honestly you're supposed to when taking first cuts). Your job is to move the ball. The reason documents go through rounds of comments is to make tweaks and get the thing as close to perfect as possible and STILL there are errors. If you pull a publicly filed merger agreement from any of the biggest, shiniest, most elite law firms at random and read it really closely, you'll find mistakes. Go play a round of golf or watch a movie or do whatever you need to de-stress. Come back and start fresh.

Now, to really do a good job in corporate, especially as you get more senior, work has to become your number 1 priority. You can do other things when there isn't work going on, but if there is, that's your focus, and you cant be distracted. If you need caffeine pills, or barrels of coffee or prescription meds in order to stay focused, that's what you do. Whatever creature comforts you need, get them. You need the environment to be absolutely set up for success/whatever happiness you can squeeze out of it. If you dont need that and prefer spartan style, do that. It's all about finding your happy place to allow you to stay in the game.

For the actual work, you mention some good strategies, one more I like: write everything down: keep a list of all tasks (even stupid stuff like "return XYZ phone call"), when drafting documents keep lists of random ideas you get for rabbit holes to go down. Ultimately I think good work product comes from the right mindset. If you're working on a deal/document, the mind set must be: "I'm going to work on this thing until I cant look at it anymore/I cant make it any better (and then print it off and read it really closely one more time)." All non-work plans are off until the thing is done. The mind set cannot be: "I just want to get this done". It's absolutely required to know where the different components and sub-components of the deal are at all times (even if, "in ___ court" is the answer). It's absolutely required that you understand the documents and mechanics.

And tbh if you think this all sucks and you hate it and/or you're bad at it, that is OK. The world is a big beautiful place. Being able to do the second/third paragraph for a prolonged period of time is not all good - it comes at a high cost. A cost the vast, vast majority of people do not want to pay.
Last edited by jkpolk on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1550
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby nixy » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:22 am

So OP, you say that these mistakes have been happening since you lateraled, which suggests you didn't make these mistakes at your previous job? If so, what do you think was different about that job? Do you think there's a possibility you're psyching yourself out about the exceptionalness of the lawyers at this new job, which is making you nervous/contributing to the screw ups?

Everybody screws up sometimes, so don't decide that you're somehow incapable and there's nothing you can do (not to take to much of a tangent into pop psych stuff, but I do think we're often our own worst enemies, that our thoughts/feelings govern our reality but aren't always correct, and you can learn to change them - so if you're convinced you're a failure you're going to find ways to confirm that). Can you figure out what kinds of things contribute to the mistakes? Are they worse if you're sleep deprived or haven't taken a break in hours or are over-caffeinated? I know this sounds maybe a little over the top, but have you thought about talking to a therapist?

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:34 am

OP here. Truthfully, stuff like this has been happening for a long time - it just didn't used to matter as much because I was always willing to put in the hours to make it perfect, and burn the midnight oil to get things. The problem is, when you're on multiple deals, there are strict time limits, and I have to get things right the first time.

And worse, it feels like I just can't focus. I spend my nights in a cold sweat, and walk in in the morning just dreading my next mistake. Even when I know I have work to do, it's just extremely difficult to begin because of the litany of unforced errors and fuck-ups that I just know are waiting for me.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1550
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby nixy » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:21 am

Anonymous User wrote:And worse, it feels like I just can't focus. I spend my nights in a cold sweat, and walk in in the morning just dreading my next mistake. Even when I know I have work to do, it's just extremely difficult to begin because of the litany of unforced errors and fuck-ups that I just know are waiting for me.

So, while I totally get why you have this anxiety going in based on how you feel about the errors, this seems to me something you might want to talk to a therapist about? Because I can't help but think that at this point, your anxiety about making mistakes is getting in your way as much as actually making mistakes.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:02 pm

OP here. Yes - I think that is something I should do. As it is, I am not helping myself at all, am I....

Associatingit

New
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Apr 05, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Associatingit » Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:37 pm

This happened to me too and I have a couple of things that helped me get out of it. First, you need to acknowledge that being a bad corporate associate is absolutely no reflection on your self worth. Making a random spelling error or even messing up an entire assignment should not lead you to feeling remotely bad about yourself, corporate work is a rediculous tedious sorta silly exercise. That being said here are my tips:

- one of my biggest sources of errors was just not actually understanding the underlying documents to the extend I could effectively spot issues. So I scheduled weekly hour long meetings with a senior associate to literally go paragraph by paragraph into each of the more standard documents. This was invaluable because it reallly boiled down the issues you should be looking at. Also I asked several associates for ‘good mark ups’ ie samples of documents that they have already marked up to use as a base

- second, make a form ‘change’ list. Every time you are in a form doc and you change something (like June to October; 2013 to 2019; Buyer to Purchaser) write the old word down. You’ll use later.

- third, make a checklist of typically mistakes you make. Mine was pretty long but included all of the more route and boring stuff, so it said stuff like, check date, are party names spelled wrong, check footers, do a format check, did you change the sig block. That way once I was down running g through the document I could step back and run my checklist to catch mistakes my mind was just sorta flossing over. On this checklist should be your ‘changed’ terms check. Literally search your document for all of the old words to make sure you changed them.

- then do a final final review by read over both a final redline and the final clean for any last min mistakes.

I won’t go into organizing yourself in as big of detail but I found clearing out you email, and updating your checklists every single night to help.

Hope all this helps! Leaving spelling and grammar error in on solidarity!

hlss09

New
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2016 9:53 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby hlss09 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:21 pm

I believe in inertia with this stuff. When you're crushing it in a good way, things keep going right - seemingly. But the opposite is also true. I'd try to get some distance from work for a day or two, head back, and start with a clean slate. Just put your former mistakes out of mind as best as possible and try to develop some positive momentum. The most important thing is to stop sabotaging yourself. Easier said than done, though. Good luck.

User avatar
totesTheGoat

Moderator
Posts: 944
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:32 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby totesTheGoat » Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:30 pm

I just want to add my experience to the "you're not alone" pile. I'm a 3rd year in-house. We just hired some new outside counsel and they're swamped with our work. My last two emails to them have been "you screwed up" emails, both of which turned out to be my fault. Talk about crappy first impression. Add in the fact that I sent an email with a broken URL to the GC the other day and that I sent a blast email to the department with a few typos, I'm feeling like crawling in a hole.

I don't really have the new to the firm pressure or time crunch pressure that you're talking about, but it's still embarrassing and the sort of mistake I shouldn't be making as a 3rd year.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:38 pm

You’re not alone :(

User avatar
whats an updog

Bronze
Posts: 374
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2014 2:12 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby whats an updog » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:04 am

Not alone, man. Some good advice above on how to reduce mistakes, but I think it's either the nature of the profession or the type of people who sign up for it or a combination of both, but what you are feeling is certainly not rare ime.

run26.2

Silver
Posts: 1001
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:35 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby run26.2 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:11 am

jkpolk wrote:Everyone makes mistakes (and honestly you're supposed to when taking first cuts). Your job is to move the ball. The reason documents go through rounds of comments is to make tweaks and get the thing as close to perfect as possible and STILL there are errors. If you pull a publicly filed merger agreement from any of the biggest, shiniest, most elite law firms at random and read it really closely, you'll find mistakes. Go play a round of golf or watch a movie or do whatever you need to de-stress. Come back and start fresh.

Now, to really do a good job in corporate, especially as you get more senior, work has to become your number 1 priority. You can do other things when there isn't work going on, but if there is, that's your focus, and you cant be distracted. If you need caffeine pills, or barrels of coffee or prescription meds in order to stay focused, that's what you do. Whatever creature comforts you need, get them. You need the environment to be absolutely set up for success/whatever happiness you can squeeze out of it. If you dont need that and prefer spartan style, do that. It's all about finding your happy place to allow you to stay in the game.

For the actual work, you mention some good strategies, one more I like: write everything down: keep a list of all tasks (even stupid stuff like "return XYZ phone call"), when drafting documents keep lists of random ideas you get for rabbit holes to go down. Ultimately I think good work product comes from the right mindset. If you're working on a deal/document, the mind set must be: "I'm going to work on this thing until I cant look at it anymore/I cant make it any better (and then print it off and read it really closely one more time)." All non-work plans are off until the thing is done. The mind set cannot be: "I just want to get this done". It's absolutely required to know where the different components and sub-components of the deal are at all times (even if, "in ___ court" is the answer). It's absolutely required that you understand the documents and mechanics.

And tbh if you think this all sucks and you hate it and/or you're bad at it, that is OK. The world is a big beautiful place. Being able to do the second/third paragraph for a prolonged period of time is not all good - it comes at a high cost. A cost the vast, vast majority of people do not want to pay.

This is a fantastic answer, with a great perspective on legal practice (with the caveat that I don't agree that if you need prescription meds to stay in a particular profession, it's ok). It's effectively the same answer that should be given for lit, too.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:53 am

OP here. Thanks so much, everybody. Taking all of this down and also trying to figure out what else I can do. I am still generally pretty sure I’m already done at this firm, but the least I can do is try to fix this crappy work.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Jul 15, 2019 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1979
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Npret » Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks so much, everybody. Taking all of this down and also trying to figure out what else I can do. I am still generally pretty sure I’m already done at this firm, but the least I can do I try to fix this crappy work.


Your work shouldn’t give you such anxiety and cold sweats. You need therapy and you may need to just take a break or leave your job.

It sounds like you’re burned out and your self-confidence is broken. Building up a structure to help you succeed is crucial and that includes these checklists but you more importantly need to take care of yourself. I would be very concerned about any associate who describes what you’re feeling - it’s extreme and it’s not something you can handle alone.

User avatar
whats an updog

Bronze
Posts: 374
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2014 2:12 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby whats an updog » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:08 pm

Npret wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks so much, everybody. Taking all of this down and also trying to figure out what else I can do. I am still generally pretty sure I’m already done at this firm, but the least I can do I try to fix this crappy work.


Your work shouldn’t give you such anxiety and cold sweats. You need therapy and you may need to just take a break or leave your job.

It sounds like you’re burned out and your self-confidence is broken. Building up a structure to help you succeed is crucial and that includes these checklists but you more importantly need to take care of yourself. I would be very concerned about any associate who describes what you’re feeling - it’s extreme and it’s not something you can handle alone.


I agree with your first paragraph and that therapy can help and that there are strategies that people can use to improve their ability to succeed, but I don’t think that this is extreme or very uncommon in biglaw.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 14, 2019 5:18 pm

Jkpolk, whoever you are, you've figured out life. Fantastic answer and TCR.

I have nothing much to add to this thread, beyond that it sounds like OP has many of the symptoms of ADHD (which I am diagnosed with.) I recommend getting a test for the disorder and/or undertaking CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), meditation, diet, exercise, the whole nine yards. And just remember, this too shall pass. Deals will go forward, new lawyers will join, old lawyers will leave, you might leave the law entirely, you'll find a way to survive. Good luck in your travels - I've been where you are before, and if you maintain the mindset that: "this too shall pass," trust me, it gets better.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1979
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Npret » Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:55 pm

whats an updog wrote:
Npret wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks so much, everybody. Taking all of this down and also trying to figure out what else I can do. I am still generally pretty sure I’m already done at this firm, but the least I can do I try to fix this crappy work.


Your work shouldn’t give you such anxiety and cold sweats. You need therapy and you may need to just take a break or leave your job.

It sounds like you’re burned out and your self-confidence is broken. Building up a structure to help you succeed is crucial and that includes these checklists but you more importantly need to take care of yourself. I would be very concerned about any associate who describes what you’re feeling - it’s extreme and it’s not something you can handle alone.


I agree with your first paragraph and that therapy can help and that there are strategies that people can use to improve their ability to succeed, but I don’t think that this is extreme or very uncommon in biglaw.

It’s extreme for a person to be suffering like this because of a job. I certainly was never aware of an associate who was in such a state of anxiety, but I could obviously be wrong.

In any rate, OP needs a good strategy and support to get out of this headspace.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 15, 2019 8:50 am

OP here. Thanks so much to everybody for the good advice.

Just this morning, I was executing documents for a closing that's happening tomorrow, and I realized one of my documents didn't have signatures. I panicked, checked everything else three times, and I started mentally preparing a "mea culpa" email to the senior associate on my deal with my apologies and proposed solution. After I'd finished checking everything else, I started typing that email with bullets of sweat on my forehead and my heart hammering.

It was an hour before I realized that we weren't using that document, and that's why I hadn't sent out a signature packet for it. And that I'd known that all along. Thank goodness I never actually sent that email.

I think that what I am trying to say here, in a very roundabout and stupid way, is that you're all correct - I've really gotten inside my own head badly and need to take a serious step back.

Thanks again, everyone.

User avatar
jkpolk

Silver
Posts: 1236
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:44 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby jkpolk » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks so much to everybody for the good advice.

Just this morning, I was executing documents for a closing that's happening tomorrow, and I realized one of my documents didn't have signatures. I panicked, checked everything else three times, and I started mentally preparing a "mea culpa" email to the senior associate on my deal with my apologies and proposed solution. After I'd finished checking everything else, I started typing that email with bullets of sweat on my forehead and my heart hammering.

It was an hour before I realized that we weren't using that document, and that's why I hadn't sent out a signature packet for it. And that I'd known that all along. Thank goodness I never actually sent that email.

I think that what I am trying to say here, in a very roundabout and stupid way, is that you're all correct - I've really gotten inside my own head badly and need to take a serious step back.

Thanks again, everyone.


You are doing fine.

When I have dark moments in the job, remembering the following has helped me out quite a bit: You are a human being with limits. You are trying your best, up to those limits, but it is impossible for you to do any more than that (e.g. no one can work more than 24 hours in a day or get everything right without the benefit of perfect information). To the extent you haven't figured something out yet, at this particular moment, you'll learn and grow over time, and you should give yourself the space to do that. If you treat the endeavor as a process, and everything is a "rep" from which you'll learn, a few years down the line you'll be much better than if everything is a discrete end in itself. And beyond the above, you are part of a team that wants to see you succeed (your deal team, your client, your friends, your family, etc.) - the pressure is not all on you, there is help all around.

Wish you all the best - perhaps one day we will work on a deal together or across from one another. As others have said, if you think it would help to talk to a professional or loved one do not hesitate to do so.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:48 pm

jkpolk wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks so much to everybody for the good advice.

Just this morning, I was executing documents for a closing that's happening tomorrow, and I realized one of my documents didn't have signatures. I panicked, checked everything else three times, and I started mentally preparing a "mea culpa" email to the senior associate on my deal with my apologies and proposed solution. After I'd finished checking everything else, I started typing that email with bullets of sweat on my forehead and my heart hammering.

It was an hour before I realized that we weren't using that document, and that's why I hadn't sent out a signature packet for it. And that I'd known that all along. Thank goodness I never actually sent that email.

I think that what I am trying to say here, in a very roundabout and stupid way, is that you're all correct - I've really gotten inside my own head badly and need to take a serious step back.

Thanks again, everyone.


You are doing fine.

When I have dark moments in the job, remembering the following has helped me out quite a bit: You are a human being with limits. You are trying your best, up to those limits, but it is impossible for you to do any more than that (e.g. no one can work more than 24 hours in a day or get everything right without the benefit of perfect information). To the extent you haven't figured something out yet, at this particular moment, you'll learn and grow over time, and you should give yourself the space to do that. If you treat the endeavor as a process, and everything is a "rep" from which you'll learn, a few years down the line you'll be much better than if everything is a discrete end in itself. And beyond the above, you are part of a team that wants to see you succeed (your deal team, your client, your friends, your family, etc.) - the pressure is not all on you, there is help all around.

Wish you all the best - perhaps one day we will work on a deal together or across from one another. As others have said, if you think it would help to talk to a professional or loved one do not hesitate to do so.



OP here yet again. jkpolk - this reply (and your other reply) - nearly drove me to tears. They're exceptional - and I needed to read them. Thank you so much.

johnnymacaroni

New
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:39 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby johnnymacaroni » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:51 pm

we are all with you in the trenches, comrade. who hasnt screwed up in this weird as hell job? take the L on the chin, try to learn from it. thats all you can do. hang in there. find good people around you, whether it's at work, outside it, etc. having people to confide in nearby can work wonders. good luck, OP. we've all been there/are there.

hlsperson1111

Bronze
Posts: 454
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby hlsperson1111 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:26 am

The fact that you care about doing a good job (and not just getting work off your desk and saying "this is good enough") already puts you ahead of many of the young associates with whom I work. Your firm wants you to succeed, and you want to succeed. All you need to do is find a process that sets you up for the success everyone wants you to have.

User avatar
AVBucks4239

Silver
Posts: 1070
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby AVBucks4239 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 11:57 am

OP, I think a good book for you might be the Checklist Manifesto. You'd be very enlightened by how even the smartest people in the world still rely on lists.

You should be curating processes and procedures for each type of document in an Evernote app or something similar. I use them for my solo practice for even minor matters. But even for depo prep, I have a big, long checklist, and I probably wouldn't think to ask about certain things if it weren't for my list.

Anonymous User
Posts: 337957
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: I can't stop screwing up

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 16, 2019 1:45 pm

4th year who has been concerned about getting fired whole career (and almost has), just laterelled to new firm and have similar worries that im messing up too much. I told myself YOLO, I made it 4 years I'm gonna stop worrying. I'll try hard but if I get fired I get fired, I cant spend my whole life worrying and feeling like shit.



Return to “Legal Employment?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.