MORE ON WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG: GOOD ADVICE IN TIMES OF STRESS AND PANIC
The Law Society Gazette today has an article by John Hyde “Prosecute the firms that force junior solicitors to cover up mistakes”. The central thrust of the argument is that there has to be a duty on firms employing lawyers to provide a safe space to allow them to admit mistakes. It looks at several cases where the initial mistake was probably “fixable”, it was the lawyer’s attempt to hide the mistake that led to disciplinary proceedings. This led to re-visit an issue already looked at this week. The regularity with which these issues come up in disciplinary proceedings shows that these matters bear repeating and here we look at good advice from other sources.
GUIDANCE FROM STEVE CORNFORTH
An example of these issues coming around regularly is in Steve Cornforth’s blog from June 2019. Steve writes a post Why does this keep happening?” He points to, yet another, case of a fee earner ” whose career in in tatters because they have tried to cover up mistakes”. The post contains a number of links to recent cases where young lawyers have attempted to cover up mistakes, by lying, and where it has rebounded badly. Here I take a brief look at Steve’s post (to encourage you to read the original). There are also numerous posts on this blog about this and there is a summary of the posts on dealing with difficult times and issues in litigation, together with links.
“I cannot accept that we have suddenly become a profession of the dishonest. The lawyers in these cases are not cynical fraudsters. They are almost always acting at a time of stress and panic. They are almost always acting alone as a situation rolls out of control. This does not justify dishonesty. But it does raise a serious question for all managers of law firms. Why do lawyers think it is better to risk their career than admit a mistake? What is the ethos in firms that creates such a sense of fear? What support are we giving to our staff? Are we reminding staff that it is not usually the end of the world if we miss a deadline? But it might be the end of a career if they try to lie their way out of it?”
STEVE’S FIVE POINT PLAN
Steve has a 5 point plan that is worth reading.
- You are not alone.
- Be generous in giving files away.
- See the wood for the trees (it is never as bad as you think it is).
- If you need to – confess.
- Get a life.
HELP ON THIS BLOG
Steve’s comment that this is a continuing issue leads me to remind people of the resources available.
ADVICE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
The “crowd-sourced” posts from Twitter, with contributions from all over the world, are a useful starting point, already repeated this week.
Lawyers: what do you do when things have gone wrong: meaningful advice from people who know (and care): when you think something is hitting the fan
“GET HELP (OR GET OUT…)
Litigation does not have to be conducted in this kind of environment. Being involved in litigation inevitably, involves a degree of pressure. However I am certain that litigators work best in a collegiate atmosphere.
THIS HAS TO BE SAID TIME AND TIME AGAIN
The important thing is to seek help. We litigators make a living because people make mistakes. It cannot be a great surprise that mistakes happen in litigation. Everyone is going to make mistakes (Even judges, otherwise there would be no need for the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court…).