My Shingle

Even the Best Lawyers Have Bad Days – But They Know How To Cover When They Do

by Carolyn Elefant on December 10, 2006 · 6 comments

in Gaining Competence, Litigation & Courts: Policy and Practice

Print Friendly

Perhaps the greatest fear that I hear from most shinglers-to-be is the fear making mistakes.  For example, many lawyers contemplating solo practice, whether fresh out of school or after a tenure at biglaw, have never argued a motion, filed a complaint or taken a deposition (sometimes they’ve never even observed others doing it).  They’re afraid that if they take a case on that involves these skills, they’ll make a mistake.  And they’re concerned not so much about a grave error that would trigger malpractice liability, but rather, the smaller errors that cause public embarrassment and humiliation in front of a judge or the client.

Guess what?  It’s not just new solos who make these kinds of little missteps, who have days when they can’t get a coherent argument out or break a witness on cross examination.  Everyone does – that’s why we call our profession the “practice,” rather than mastery of law.  But what more experienced lawyers do have is a bag of tricks that they can use to cover errors or mitigate them.  Consider this nifty trick that Ron Miller of  Miller and Zois’  Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog discussed in this post entitled Cross Examination of the Witness That Cannot Be Cross-Examined.  You need to read the post in its entirety to appreciate the story, but to briefly summarize, if you can’t lay a hand on a witness, compare him to a greased pig.  The story is a great example of how to explain away any lack of effectiveness – and then – turn it to your advantage.

  • Ron Miller

    Carolyn, MyShingle is the first blog I read in the morning. So I’m thrilled and flattered that you are reading my blog.
    Keep up the great work. – Ron

  • Ron Miller

    Carolyn, MyShingle is the first blog I read in the morning. So I’m thrilled and flattered that you are reading my blog.
    Keep up the great work. – Ron

  • http://www.employmentlawcolorado.com Peter Mullison

    As a new solo, this story very much resonates with me. I remember how nervous I was after I sent off my first demand letter, wondering if I had done anything wrong, would they call and yell at me, what would I say if they did. What was I thinking. Now, I still get a bit nervous giving advice to clients, but every day it gets better.
    Peter Mullison
    http://www.employmentlawcolorado.com

  • http://www.employmentlawcolorado.com Peter Mullison

    As a new solo, this story very much resonates with me. I remember how nervous I was after I sent off my first demand letter, wondering if I had done anything wrong, would they call and yell at me, what would I say if they did. What was I thinking. Now, I still get a bit nervous giving advice to clients, but every day it gets better.
    Peter Mullison
    http://www.employmentlawcolorado.com

  • http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

    Carolyn,
    There ARE so many variables involved in running a successful law firm business.
    And performing the actual services that clients pay us for is just one of them.
    But here’s an observation I’ve shared with lots of new lawyers who have come to me for help in opening their own firms that may put this very real concern into perpsective for any lawyers thinking about going out on their own. . .
    When compared to opening and running a successful (read profitable and not embarrassing) small law firm, driving a car across town involves far more variables, with much graver consequences. And yet we all get into our cars and drive across town, across our States, and even across the Country for both work and pleasure.
    QUESTION: How in the world did that happen?
    ANSWER: Exposure, training and practice.
    Think about it. If you were to put a person who had never even ridden in a car behind the wheel, hand them the keys, give them an address and just send them on their way. . . what do you think would happen?
    That person would have to figure out how to get the car started, how to make it go, stop & steer. S/he’d have to dodge all kinds of obstacles along the road and without the benefit of anyone telling them about the the rules of the road and with no map, they’d have to find an address they’ve never been to before.
    If by some miracle, our hypothetical driver were to somehow make it to the address alive, it certainly wouldn’t be an enjoyable or an efficient experience, don’t you think?
    Instead, new drivers read books, take lessons, practice and start with short trips around the neighborhood before venturing out onto the expressway and before they know it, they’re getting into cars and driving across towns, states, and countries for work and even for pleasure.
    Well, it’s the same with running your own law firm. If you just jump-in with no training or preparation – or worse, with just a few “tips” you’ve picked-up from well meaning friends, chances are it will be a bumpy and scary ride. Fortunately though, there are all kinds of resources available to help new (and not so new) lawyers master all the law firm management and marketing skills they will need. And compared to that, actually performing the legal services themselves is pretty easy plus the mistakes are much easier to fix.
    Respectfully,
    RJON ROBINS
    http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com
    Helping Lawyers In Small Firms Make ALOT More Money

  • http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

    Carolyn,
    There ARE so many variables involved in running a successful law firm business.
    And performing the actual services that clients pay us for is just one of them.
    But here’s an observation I’ve shared with lots of new lawyers who have come to me for help in opening their own firms that may put this very real concern into perpsective for any lawyers thinking about going out on their own. . .
    When compared to opening and running a successful (read profitable and not embarrassing) small law firm, driving a car across town involves far more variables, with much graver consequences. And yet we all get into our cars and drive across town, across our States, and even across the Country for both work and pleasure.
    QUESTION: How in the world did that happen?
    ANSWER: Exposure, training and practice.
    Think about it. If you were to put a person who had never even ridden in a car behind the wheel, hand them the keys, give them an address and just send them on their way. . . what do you think would happen?
    That person would have to figure out how to get the car started, how to make it go, stop & steer. S/he’d have to dodge all kinds of obstacles along the road and without the benefit of anyone telling them about the the rules of the road and with no map, they’d have to find an address they’ve never been to before.
    If by some miracle, our hypothetical driver were to somehow make it to the address alive, it certainly wouldn’t be an enjoyable or an efficient experience, don’t you think?
    Instead, new drivers read books, take lessons, practice and start with short trips around the neighborhood before venturing out onto the expressway and before they know it, they’re getting into cars and driving across towns, states, and countries for work and even for pleasure.
    Well, it’s the same with running your own law firm. If you just jump-in with no training or preparation – or worse, with just a few “tips” you’ve picked-up from well meaning friends, chances are it will be a bumpy and scary ride. Fortunately though, there are all kinds of resources available to help new (and not so new) lawyers master all the law firm management and marketing skills they will need. And compared to that, actually performing the legal services themselves is pretty easy plus the mistakes are much easier to fix.
    Respectfully,
    RJON ROBINS
    http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com
    Helping Lawyers In Small Firms Make ALOT More Money

Previous post:

Next post: