Exploring the ever-changing landscape of environmental law

What are Mistakes that Lawyers Make?

Monday, December 17, 2012

On a cold December night more than 100 lawyers -- many of whom had only earlier this month been admitted to the bar -- turned out for the Boston Bar Association’s annual “Mistakes New Lawyers Make.” There a panel of six lawyers of different backgrounds shared professional advice useful to attorneys of all experience levels -- including legal tips, networking and how to keep clients happy.

Panelists included Moderator David E. Wilson (Corwin & Corwin LLP),Marie E Giraud (Morrison Mahoney LLP), Von Bryant (Foley Hoag LLP), Jessica A. Massey (Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General), Gabriel Cheong (Infinity Law Group LLC), and Adrienne Penta ( Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.)

We will be running all of the tips in a four part series in BBA Week. Our first week will focus on Professional Pitfalls:

• Don’t guess when someone asks you a question. Saying something along the lines of, “I don’t know the answer, but I will get back to you,” is much better than giving the wrong answer.

• Seek out a mentor early on. Have a person of whom you can ask questions. Get out of your office and get your questions answered.

• Never press “send” after 1:00AM. If there is no need to send something late, then don’t. It is better to wake up early and reread a piece of work. The extra polish and shine on a person’s work is important to his or her personal brand.

• Don’t feel the need to be more combative or aggressive than necessary. You can always get more aggressive. It is not as easy to “unannoy” someone on the other side of a deal.

• The BBO has a hotline you can call to tell them about a mistake you made and they will inform you of the possible consequences of your mistakes.

• Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers deals with alcohol abuse among lawyers. Don’t let the stress associated with work overwhelm you.

• Learn to say “no,” in a tactful way. In order to please multiple bosses, you must get work done in a timely manner and manage bosses’ expectations about time management.

• Don’t commit to something and then not get it done. Be realistic. Be honest.

• When you make a mistake, be honest with yourself that you made a mistake. Accept it. Own it. Decide how bad is the mistake is. Try to come up with a solution to propose when bringing a mistake to the attention of a supervisor.

• Don’t try to fix your mistakes too quickly. Acting to quickly can lead to another mistake.

• Be candid with those you are working with. Don’t try to gloss over your mistake. If someone finds out down the line, the situation will be much worse than if you had told them in the beginning. Own up to your mistake.

• Take steps to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again. Employers don’t like to see the same mistake twice.

Environmental Law Committees

  • Air Quality and Climate Change Committee
    This committee reviews federal and local air pollution control, including source permitting, air quality planning, transportation planning, compliance monitoring, hazardous air pollutants and indoor air pollution.

    Contact Information

    Marilyn Levenson

    Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

    Aladdine Joroff

    Harvard Law School

  • Energy and Telecommunications Law Committee
    This committee addresses regulatory and related issues affecting the natural gas, electric and telecommunications industries in Massachusetts — on the federal level and in other jurisdictions. Members typically practice before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and state and federal courts.

    Contact Information

    Jamie M. Tosches

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    James M. Avery

    Pierce Atwood LLP

    (617) 488-8125

  • Environmental Law Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Environmental attorneys are asked to lend their expertise.
  • Environmental Law Public Service Committee
    This committee has a number of annual service events including planting trees for Earth Day and volunteering with the Food Project. The committee also focuses on practice-specific pro bono projects and brown bag programming.

    Contact Information

    Mina S. Makarious

    Anderson & Kreiger LLP

    (617) 621-6525

    Korrin Petersen

    Buzzards Bay Coalition

    (508) 999-6363

  • Environmental Litigation Committee
    This committee focuses on Chapter 21E, CERCLA, insurance, clean air and clean water litigation.

    Contact Information

    Seth Schofield

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    Katherine Kimball

    Ball Corporation Headquarters

    (303) 460-2589

  • Hazardous and Solid Waste Committee
    This committee informs members about issues relating to federal and Massachusetts laws governing oil, hazardous materials and hazardous waste, including CERCLA and Chapter 21E.

    Contact Information

    Bonnie Heiple

    Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

    (617) 526-6745

    John D. Beling

    Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

  • International Environmental Law Committee
    This committee is for members interested in international environmental issues and the laws of foreign countries.

    Contact Information

    Stuart L. Canton

    (781) 652-0135

    Cicely Ott Parseghian

    Foley Hoag LLP

    (617) 832-3038

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Wetlands, Waterways and Water Quality Committee
    This committee keeps members abreast of changes in local, state and federal statutes, regulations and by-laws relating to discharges to surface water, groundwater and wastewater treatment plants.

    Contact Information

    Rebekah Lacey

    Anderson & Kreiger LLP

    (617) 621-6500

    Margaret M. Callanan

    Executive Office of Environmental Affairs

    (617) 626-1146