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.