10 TIPS ON WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG: “FESS UP”, “SEEK HELP”, “THEY SKY WON’T FALL IN”
Here I have selected 10 pieces of advice from Twitter on what to do when things go wrong. These are not the “top 10” tips because, frankly, every one of the pieces of advice given in the original post are worth reading. The aim is to persuade you to read them all. There is a constant theme to the tips. No apologies are made for this: seeking help and not hiding the error are the central points in dealing with any error.
‘The sky won’t fall in.’ ‘Thank you for telling us. Let’s see what we can do to sort this out’
Go to the most senior, kindly person you can identify – hopefully your boss. Pick your moment (but don’t put it off), say you have bad news & you’re worried, apologise, confess all & ask how you can help put it right. Remember – it is not the end of the world.
(1) most mistakes are salvageable; (2) don’t ever lie to cover up an error; (3) this is why you have insurance; (4) research shows that clients rarely sue lawyers they like. If you have been kind, hardworking and respectful, now is the time you see the benefit.
Skyfall plan 1. Admit it to yourself that you have done what everyone does now and again 2. Speak to trusted friend 3. Tell HOC/Senior Partner and insurer 4. Tell Solicitor or client 5. Tell Court if appropriate 6. Eat Cake
When things go spectacularly wrong: 1. Don’t blame your opponent. 2. Don’t blame the client. 3. Don’t blame the court. Don’t blame the moonlight, sunshine or the boogie. Fess up, accept it’s your fault & that’s the point from which things will begin to improve.
If you want someone objective and outside your firm, talk to friendly Counsel – worse case scenario, they can help you draft the application! Whomever you go to, saying it out loud helps you think about the way forward. You’ll need to come clean and quickly – no procrastination
Ask someone for their view, ask two if needed. Always use the code as a steer. Notify your insurer. Fess up. Apologise. If necessary this means explicitly telling the court it’s your error not the client’s. Do what you can to make it right / limit damage. Learn from it. Move on.
Creating a culture where junior staff can admit mistakes without fear of disproportionate retribution is important.
My thoughts on soul crushing mistakes, legal or otherwise: 1. Be kind to yourself. Your self talk should be like a kind friend because that’s the *voice* you hear the most. By nature, humans err. 2. Don’t blame others, find a remedy. 3. Review your work flows to improve process.
Nobody loses their legal career over a mistake. Plenty lose their legal career over lying about a mistake.