An Open Letter to Law Firm Associates

This is an open letter to law firm associates, everywhere, wherever they may be, regardless of the size of their firm or the nature of their practice.

I am aware that you are in love with the cut ‘n paste mode of creating documents and letters.  I love it, too.  A wonderful time-saver.  One can be very efficient in using this mode of document creation.  I have used it to my advantage many times.  Yet, there are traps for the unwary, a veritable minefield of explosives lurking below the surface.  That is why many law firms have adopted the Uniform Guide to Law Firm Associate Behavior (“UGLFAB”).  Rule No. 12.3(c)(2)(iii), of the UGLFAB states, in pertinent part:

Associates who employ the cut ‘n paste method of document generation, do so at their own risk and peril.  There will be NO EXCUSES, NO WAIVERS OF LIABILITY, NO WHINING THAT PARTNER IS UNREASONABLE, and NO GET OUT OF ASSOCIATE JAIL FREE CARD.  HEREOF FAIL NOT.

Perhaps your firm’s management committee has been busy with other stuff, like recruiting – which is important (especially since VIOLATION of the Cut ‘n Paste Rule can be TERMINABLE OFFENSE) – so I am taking this opportunity to provide this friendly reminder. Remember: Proofread everything!

I have previously referenced one of my favorite legal resources, The Official Lawyer’s Handbook, by D. Robert White, Esq., published in 1983 by Wallaby Books.  One of the chapters is titled, “How to Survive and Make Partner in Your Law Firm.”  Rule No. 3 in that chapter is “There is No Such Thing as a ‘Draft.’”  As White points out, the word “draft” is a term of art and “failure to understand its specialized meaning has left many an eager and capable associate consigned to proofreading loan agreements for the duration (short) of his stay with his firm.”  Perhaps you have encountered this potential disaster of misunderstanding the term “draft.”  A partner asks you to provide him with a “draft” on a particular point.  “More often than not, he will camouflage the trap by saying something like, ‘Just get me a quick draft,’ or ‘Just whip off a draft,’ or even ‘Just dictate a rough draft.’  The emphasized words should trigger flashing red lights in your mind.”

That the partner has asked for a “draft” does not mean that he will tolerate the sloppy cut n’ paste method, which you have failed to proofread.  It does not mean that the partner will tolerate typos or that you should not have checked all your cites in advance.  As White concludes, “everything you submit to a partner should be suitable for framing.  No matter how casual the request, how insignificant the task, or how few the dollars at issue, the test you should apply to everything bearing your name is its suitability for hanging in the Sistine Chapel of legal documents.”

By the way, Rule No. 1 is CYA.

Comments

  1. As a recent law grad, I appreciate this reality check. I spent 15 years as a paralegal before law school and have to suppress laughter when classmates say, “I can’t wait to start work, I had so much FUN last summer!” Last time I checked, the practice of law doesn’t involve shoe shopping, pedicures or warm cookies at 3 every day. I took my summer clerkships in stride, knowing the reality after the Bar is very different. We’ll see if my classmates share the same sentiment in December. That is, if we can find them underneath the mound of document review.

  2. Stuart Mauney says:

    GerriP: Thanks for your comment!

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