ADVICE TO A NEWLY QUALIFIED LITIGATOR 3: THINGS WILL GO WRONG, ADMIT IT, DEAL WITH IT AND NEVER, EVER, EVER ATTEMPT TO HIDE IT

At sometime in everybody’s legal career there is likely to be a situation when mistakes are made and everything points to you.

Mathew Hickey puts the point succinctly in Rocket Lawyer

“There will be moments in your legal career when things go wrong. Maybe even the devastatingly, “the sky is falling” sort of wrong.”

Legal culture, however, favours the myth of infallibility.  Lawyers do not make mistakes.  This contrasts with reality, where mistakes are made.

THE REASON THIS IS IMPORTANT

This myth (and again myth it is) of legal infallibility can have profound consequences.  The most significant of which is that it can make lawyers reluctant to  admit their mistakes at once, or, as in the case above, attempt to hide them.  The difficulty is that:

  • Many mistakes can be rectified if dealt with early.
  • The “cover up” of the mistake is almost always far more harmful than the mistake itself.
  • The costs, expense and delay to the client are made much worse.

SO TELL YOUNG LAWYERS (AND REMIND OLDER LAWYERS) THAT MISTAKES WILL BE MADE

  • Making mistakes does not make you a bad lawyer.
  • Failing to admit mistakes makes you a bad lawyer (you are never going to learn).
  • Covering up your mistakes makes you a dishonest lawyer (and probably an ex-lawyer).

Mistakes in litigation, if identified early enough and dealt with promptly enough, can often be rectified, or at very least the consequences minimised.

Far better to face up to a mistake than lose your means of earning a living.

NEVER HIDE IT, TELL SOMEONE, GET HELP (AND TELL YOUR INDEMNITY INSURER)

One of my favourite aspects of this blog is when many people become involved and give advice.   Every young lawyers (and many older ones) should read the advice given out earlier this year “Lawyers: what do you do when things go wrong.?”  This has advice from many eminent people across the legal profession (and from outside) all of which is useful.

Supervision doesn’t cover everything (eg claim done but not sent), but the principle holds true. Supervisor should take responsibility, and we all make mistakes at times.

Ask for help and support, everyone needs to ask questions it is not a bad thing.

Depends on why the sky is falling in on you. Ask yourself why you became a lawyer in the first place. If it was for a corrupt intent, or if your firm has corrupted you, accept you are the problem. Otherwise, the Law always allows for a solution.

Depends on why the sky is falling in on you. Ask yourself why you became a lawyer in the first place. If it was for a corrupt intent, or if your firm has corrupted you, accept you are the problem. Otherwise, the Law always allows for a solution.

If you are NQ, your mistakes are your supervisor’s mistakes too. Either they didn’t supervise closely enough or gave you too much responsibility. A good supervisor will recognise this and share both the client and emotional burden with you.

Unless you messed up pagniating. In which case it’s on you. Page turn next time.

The Ground Swallow Me feeling when the employment judge says “I appear not to have a page 104.” Never trust the machines. Ever.

Before taking your mistake to someone senior for advice or help, which is a must, prepare a full note of the case and your actions/inactions. It will help immensely in finding a solution, and make sure you send it to your insurer. Whatever the result the sun will rise tomorrow.

1. Breathe. If you can calm down and see the wood for the trees you may realise what you need to do to sort it out. 2. Tell your supervisor whether you know how sort it or not. You will often find that it’s not as bad as you thought. 3. Take action immediately.

Lawyers in trouble. Just an extra thought Gordon. It must sometimes be difficult to raise a difficult problem with an employer. Another possibility is to suggest that solicitors in difficulty could talk to their Council Member. Generally speaking we are a worldly wise lot (as well as being world weary) but we are there because we are dedicated to the solicitors profession. There is a Council member for virtually every area in England and Wales and I believe any one of us would be happy to help someone in our patch who has got into difficulty

1. Remember 99.9% of problems can be fixed & costs penalties are not the end of the world. 2. Ask for help and make sure your manager is in the loop. 3. Never sacrifice your integrity. 4. Do what you can in a timely manner. 5. Remember the sun will still rise tomorrow.