"Attention to detail" makes me feel insane

I'm pretty junior and have always struggled with reviewing documents and emails for tiny mistakes. I check and I check and I check and there is still something wrong. I get convinced I've spelt the clients name or my own name wrong in emails and have to check it ten times over, only to end up missing an actual mistake somewhere else.

Do you ever just do this as second nature or is it just something you're born with or you're not? Because right now I just feel like I've developed an intensely useless form of OCD. People make it sound so easy 'just be careful' but I could stare at stuff for hours and somehow never see it.

read everything three times.  The last time read it out loud, slowly, one word at a time.  

trust me.

Just try and blag it for a few years. If you can get through that, life becomes easier as you'll have your own gimp to do the boring stuff.

I quite enjoy proofing. It’s relaxing and an automatic  skill that comes from wanting to criticize and condemn people 

I have never met a partner who never had a typo.

These things happen; don't sweat it.

Think it through to its logical conclusion: what would happen if, despite your best efforts, there was - God forbid - a typo?

 

As a procurer of legal Services I have stopped using firms because of spelling errors etc. 

Always print.

You will find typos much more consistently.

Partners having typos doesn't stop the same partners form throwing a massive benny when someone else has a typo.

The WORST are ignorant yanks who confuse correct use of the Queen’s English with typos. 

but if Microsoft can spell it liase then SO CAN I??!!

 

(this means nothing to anyone who started working after MS Office 97)

Wot Unwalt said. They glare out at you when you print the document in a way that just doesn't happen on a screen.

Wot dux said.  It can be a real PIA when you are junior.  I am really not the best proof reader in the world and had some run ins with some particularly anal fvckwits over the years.  As you get more senior someone else has to do it/people stop commenting if you do make a typo. 

attention to detail is like nose-picking.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Find a system that works and use it. 

Some people use a ruler

Some people word search every definition

But be consistent in what you are doing. 

Senior lawyers have the benefit of being the second pair of eyes - so they see what you don't see - so dont worry about it too much in terms of where you're at - but do worry about getting stuff right - and spend the time that needs to be spent to make things make sense. 

Start from the last sentence and work your way up. 
Plus what DDS said.

my attention to detail is pretty good.  but on important stuff i still sometimes run my finger along under each word, to make sure i check it properly.

oh, also, i don't type capitals, but that's because i can't be 4rsed.

@Habibi I totally get this - I proof and check 3x and still make little mistakes it's so frustrating. I think the answer is to print and check. I am also going to buy a second monitor.. after a year of working remotely :S bit late

Hardly anyone can proof read on screen. So much easier in printed form.  

Also what snippy said.  You shouldn't be reading anything more than twice, but you should be reading it genuinely carefully.  If I really have to proof read something properly I will sometimes use a ruler. It forces you to focus on the line you are reading and not skip about. 

I think I probably am a bit dyslexic though... 

Yeh print everything

Also, if you don't have your own gimp, draft / review the piece of work much earlier than the deadline, and then closer to the deadline read the entire thing again

Doesn't work if you're in a sweatshop though

As a junior lawyer, you need only three things:

1) Attention to Detail

2) Blind obedience

3) the work ethic of a 18th century protestant cleric on methamphetamine 

A cracking rack and and a smile on your boatrace are beneficial but not mandatory 

 

Get someone else to read it.  When you've drafted and spent time working on a document your brain will see what it's expecting to see rather than what is there.

It will come.  There will be a point where you'll be able to spot an incorrectly fonted semi-colon from 30 paces.  After you've doused the flames, you'll realise what StevenSpielberg said.

In a somewhat twisted way, I've worked with lawyers who were alan about typos but would easily miss the entire gist of the document.

habibi - chat up a trainee or paralegal or friendly fellow NQ to sense check and proofread. Offer to reciprocate in the case of the NQ.

echo what people are saying about printing then reading. if this means going to the office then it means going to the office.

also build in more time for checking when you plan stuff

external stuff is more important than internal stuff so calibrate your risk meter accordingly

it will improve and/or you will care less as you get more senior.

In a somewhat twisted way, I've worked with lawyers who were alan about typos but would easily miss the entire gist of the document.

me too 😂😂😂

i love that a document can have a "gist"

This isnt The Castle m8s

I hate people who get totally alan about double spaces especially when it's some Powerpoint full of meaningless bollocks in the first place.  Bankers are particularly prone to this.

Proof reading is a process completely antithetical to how the brain actually functions. We don't see what is there we see a construction based mostly on what the brain expects to see. If something appears to be missing it fills it in or corrects it to match the expectation. Proof reading is literally inhuman.

Wherever possible, leave the text overnight and proof it the next day. 
Like most things, you get better with practice, and if a junior’s only mistakes are typos then they’re doing great. 

Had to google what The Castle was, but definitely going to watch that now.  

Next turn of the documents I'll definitely let the other side know if I like their vibe.

I think I have pretty good attention to detail and I make very few typos, but I still make them. If I ever re-read something I wrote more than a few weeks ago I will cringe when I see a typo. More often than not it happens when you are drafting a sentence and then re-draft it but forget to change every part that needs changing so you look like you don’t understand basic grammar.

You can’t read your work 3 times, you just can’t take that long. If I’m writing something short, a 1 page email or letter, I never re-read it. I just draft it and send it. If I write something much longer, I generally read it over fully once and make changes. Only in very limited circumstances, eg where you are drafting a pleading, can you review it more than once, but usually you are relying on somebody else to sense-check it too.

My advice is: don’t worry about the typos. They are inevitable if you are writing all day long as quickly as possible. 
 

I have had supervisors who would pick me up on typos as if they were the worst thing ever (“Did you even read this before giving it to me?”) while themselves producing work of the absolute turdiest quality, or just fundamentally understanding the basics. 
 

Re double spaces, I cannot suffer them to exist. If I ever check somebody else’s work I take them all out. They drive me insane. Sometimes people use triple spaces and it blows my mind.

 

Just a thought... Can one "feel insane"? Surely insanity is something judged by others, with the afflicted person oblivious?

*misunderstanding. But anybody who read that knew that’s what I meant. It wasn’t worth the time re-reading and correcting that, and it usually isn’t professionally either.

Jelly, only when I'm the one nodding my head whilst everyone else is furiously shaking theirs.

I totally disagree with the advice to read everything three times.

Just do a final, slow, painstaking, read through, when you think it is perfect. Read every single word, ideally out loud. If you are getting tired or bored, pause. Focus!

Skimming it three times takes longer, and you will still miss things.

And do not make improvements during your final, slow check. If the document still needs improving it is not ready for the final check.

I skimmed twice and slow read once when I was a trainee. Now I just slow read once and am a LOT better at this now. 

I have had supervisors who would pick me up on typos as if they were the worst thing ever (“Did you even read this before giving it to me?”) while themselves producing work of the absolute turdiest quality, or just fundamentally understanding the basics. 

Certain firms are horrific for this

**cough cough Nabarros**cough cough**Slaughters**

As you get more experience you learn what bits to focus on

Specifically, you know the types of mistakes that people make, because you know the precedents better so you know which parts of the documents are amended

So on letters, you look for and focus on the dates, addressees, subject heading, and specific bits while ignoring the boilerplate

It’s simple: how can I have any confidence in the detail/substance if the simple things are wrong. 

Indeed! And as you don't understand the detail, you can use typospotting as a proxy for intellect!

Just remind me which firm it is you work for again jelly?

I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned - I find the read-aloud function in word/outlook to be useful. It is particularly good when you don't have access to a printer so can't follow the advice above to always print out. Obviously, it only works for shortish pieces for writing - you can't use it to proof a 40-page document. Grammarly premium is also pretty good (better than Word). 

Certain firms are horrific for this

**cough cough Nabarros**cough cough**Slaughters**

Funny you should say this JT, as the worst partner I ever worked for had come from one of these firms. He was the firm’s head of litigation where I was and one of the first conversations I ever had with him was as follows.

Him: Can you issue a claim form on this multi million pound claim that we have all been working on for months?

Me: Yes, do we have £10,000 to issue it?

Him: No. What is that?

Me: You know, the court’s fee for issuing the claim form.

Him: What court’s fee?

Me: You have to pay the Court when you issue a claim. *Thinking: how the hell is this person a law firm’s head of litigation?*

Him: Can you research what the court fee is and show me the research?

Me: It’s £10,000. I know this because I’ve issued claims before.

Him: Just do the research and show me.

Me: *Prints off EX50*

Him: Can you highlight where it says £10,000? And staple the pages together. I don’t want to ask you to do either of these again.

That was my first week as an NQ at a new firm. I knew straight away that I knew more about litigation than him and I wasn’t going to learn anything there. I immediately started looking elsewhere but I was totally screwed. No recruiter would touch me as I was trying to move a week into an NQ position. It took me a year to get another job, and I had to deal with this utter moron every day for a year.

Od, it sounds like he did know his stuff, but was using it to demonstrate to you what work product he expected. 

By The Castle did you mean “we’re going to bonnie soon?!”. A complete flashback to watching this in Australia. 
 

In relation to attention to detail I think if this is a problem I must have a skill I’ve never considered. I would usually just pick up typos but certainly if I read someone else’s document. Can you delegate the job? 

Risky, he didn’t know. He messed almost everything up, and what made it worse was that he kept court orders to himself and away from the team, would miss deadlines which the team would have caught, and would then force the team to work all nighters fire-fighting for his mistakes (while he went home). Really trivial things too like failing to file court bundles. Or he would instruct the team to do a large task, 100 hours into it he would review and decide it needed to be restarted a different way that would have been foreseeable to anybody with a brain. He was a walking disaster who couldn’t get anything right, but still pounced on the slightest mistake anybody else made and then humiliated them in front of the rest of the team.

OD I know a guy who worked for someone like that until he got sacked  for spelling a client's name wrong in a draft deed of variation that was correcting a substantive error made by the partner 3 years earlier.

Risky, he didn’t know. He messed almost everything up, and what made it worse was that he kept court orders to himself and away from the team, would miss deadlines which the team would have caught, and would then force the team to work all nighters fire-fighting for his mistakes (while he went home). Really trivial things too like failing to file court bundles. Or he would instruct the team to do a large task, 100 hours into it he would review and decide it needed to be restarted a different way that would have been foreseeable to anybody with a brain. He was a walking disaster who couldn’t get anything right, but still pounced on the slightest mistake anybody else made and then humiliated them in front of the rest of the team.

To be fair, I work with a couple of partners and senior lawyers at my current firm who have literally no grasp of the day to day minutiae. I think this has become more of an issue in recent years, what with the what seems to be a huge acceleration in procedural changes - not just over Covid but also in the years after the Jackson reforms. Plus digitisation. Juniors who do not have a senior lawyer who is on top of these are in constant danger of making mistakes.

Take one example of a mistake made by an NQ colleague who was being supervised by one of these partners - we needed to issue an application to set aside summer last year - judgment obtained in default from the High Court (Chancery Division). Urgency was key. The NQ asked the senior lawyer what to do, the senior lawyer said that an application form n244 needed to be filled out, dug out a precedent witness statement in support of the application, and also filed a client witness statement. It was all sent off in hardcopy to the High Court.

Only to be sent back later four weeks later by the High Court with a cover note saying that applications issued in the TCC had needed to be done via CE-Filing online since late 2015 pursuant to PD51O.

If that NQ had asked me, I would have told him to issue it online - as the year before I had been asked to issue a claim at the technology and construction court which was part of the PD51O pilot. There, the partner also had no idea of the but had asked me to doublecheck the process and teach myself the rules and read the relevant court guide.

the difference is that the senior lawyers at my place are not sociopathic

Jamie, your application to ‘set aside summer last year’ worked rather too well don’t you think?!

Jamie, your application to ‘set aside summer last year’ worked rather too well don’t you think?!

heh was my colleague’s so blame her

JS, while I work at a place now with intelligent and diligent partners, it is a bug-bear of mine that the more senior they become, they seem to forget or just not be prepared to do quite simple tasks which they must have done loads of times earlier in their career. It means that they can’t really cover for you if you are away. An email will come in that goes to them and they will panic, either getting you to do it when you are on holiday, or dragging some other junior in to look at it and try to find out what is going on, which takes 10 times as long as it should take a partner who actually does know what is going on and should be able to engage.

Plus, you get situations (similar to what you describe) where the junior’s experience doesn’t extend to the situation, the partner’s does but they don’t want anything to do with the nitty-gritty of it, and you get this grey area where neither of them knows what to do, but they both presume that the other one does. 

I can relate a lot to this thread. I struggle a lot with attention to detail. It’s not me, I read quickly and skim the details and re - read. Fundamentally, I’m more a big picture person. I’d make a great partner emeritus. It drives me nuts and I still find it humiliating.

Some things that work for me, (I) most importantly, under pressure go slower, this is doubly the case under personal pressure. Honestly, when someone is waiting for you it is the time to go slow (hard with kids), (ii) read, re-read take a break and read again, (iii) if vital read to a colleague , (iv) if critical, read aloud to a colleague.

best advice, find a job where you can employ or have smart people to do this for you 

Bloody hell OD - must have been relatively recent if fee was 10k. Was the partner more of an arbitration lawyer? Maybe that's why he sucked at procedural stuff?

JS, while I work at a place now with intelligent and diligent partners, it is a bug-bear of mine that the more senior they become, they seem to forget or just not be prepared to do quite simple tasks which they must have done loads of times earlier in their career. 

Not necessarily. My impression is that because litigation is such a wide area, there are loads of things that you can get to around 3-4 years PQE without having ever done. I have had to do several types of application and several procedural things this year that I never date as a trainee or junior associate. Because I was told to by a partner or senior lawyer who had clearly never done it before (**just go research it if you havent done it before**)

Things like cost budgeting, preparing for pre-trial review, applications to consolidate claims, my own application to set aside, applications to substitute in parties, applications for strike-out, applications for substituted service. Half of the prep for this was done off the clock as we didn’t have budget and would have struggled to recover any from the other side.

I can well imagine certain people getting to senior associate level without ever having done specific things like the ones I just mentioned and then simply being able to delegate downwards. Or indeed, being incentivised to delegate downwards due to cost pressures rather than spend non chargeable time on learning the ropes. 

The result, of course, is the more junior lawyers briefing senior lawyers and getting their work “sense checked” by people who haven’t done it before.
 

Plus, you get situations (similar to what you describe) where the junior’s experience doesn’t extend to the situation, the partner’s does but they don’t want anything to do with the nitty-gritty of it, and you get this grey area where neither of them knows what to do, but they both presume that the other one does. 

See above. I have therefore decided never to make any assumptions about the sort of thing. Or rather, I assume that someone hasn’t done it before unless they tell me.

@Jamie

This is one of the big difficulties with litigation. You typically work on very few cases at a time in litigation, and you might spend years working on just one or two cases which take years to complete.

Even if you have done nothing but High Court litigation, and you have been active in the courts constantly, you might never have, say, used a particular form of predictive coding/computer assisted review for disclosure review. The difference between managing a disclosure exercise, which uses a CAL confidence internal to determine when to stop reviewed, as compared to the technology which prevailed only 3-4 years ago, is actually very significant, and most partners will never have encountered the process during their associate careers, when they were at the 'sharp end'.

Without that first hand experience, it is difficult to supervise the process properly unless you get a rare partner who makes sure they understood the minutiae of the new technology.

Same goes for things like CE filing. Most partners will never have actually filed anything via CE-file themselves, so they are lost without junior support.

@Terry

This is one of the big difficulties with litigation. You typically work on very few cases at a time in litigation, and you might spend years working on just one or two cases which take years to complete.

I actually currently juggle about 30+ matters - half contentious advisory, half actual litigation - mainly not hugely high value mind - and even then I am having to do so much self-learning. 

Never done e-disclosure. Never done disclosure in a case with more than, say, 30 docs and 1500 pages disclosed. I count it as a bullet dodged.

Without that first hand experience, it is difficult to supervise the process properly unless you get a rare partner who makes sure they understood the minutiae of the new technology.

Same goes for things like CE filing. Most partners will never have actually filed anything via CE-file themselves, so they are lost without junior support.

i never understand why they dont involve PSLs (who often alert us to these things) in supervision of matters

The Caste reference was about the "vibe" of the law:

 

Judge: What section of the Constitution has been breached?

 

Dennis: Section…what section? There is no one section…it’s just the vibe of the thing….

 

Agree with JM - read it three times. Read it the first time out loud, at normal pace. This will tell you if the work makes sense as a whole. Then read it again, considering in your head the meaning of every. Single. Word. And checking it is correct in context. Check all usage of defined terms at this round. Finally, read again checking every single micro detail. Are there extra spaces, is every full stop a full stop; is capitalisation correct, footnoting correct, formatting correct, are clause names in cross references in italics and (personal bugbear alert) in the same case as used in the actual clause headings? Etc

is this tedious? Yes. is it time consuming? Yes. Is it the motha fokkin’ JOB? YES. BIll every single SECOND you spend on it. Every micro-unit spent proofing - record it. You’re junior - how much time goes on the clock is someone else’s problem and will in effect remain so until you’re a partner.

Also, you’ll still be doing this stuff when you’re 20PQE. Maybe not literally proofing really long documents, but the job never stops being about quality assuring painstaking detail, and no partner who isn’t a megapedant is a good partner. If you really hate being responsible for the Nth level detailed accuracy of dense prose, get a new career.

To be honest, my colleagues and I are too busy to be proof-reading somebody else’s document or letter. It would be nice in practice but everything is more rushed than this, and you can’t justify charging a client £1k or something for another lawyer to proof read something and make no real change to it.

Accuracy matters

If they won’t pay, let the partners not charge them for it. but make sure u do it and make sure u out the time down

To be honest, my colleagues and I are too busy to be proof-reading somebody else’s document or letter. It would be nice in practice but everything is more rushed than this, and you can’t justify charging a client £1k or something for another lawyer to proof read something and make no real change to it.

wot laz sed

the solution is to ask a junior to do it off the clock, and if they refuse, then pick it up with the partner or senior person who did the scoping to warn them of overrun and potential write off

in the event that you are responsible for scoping out the latter, then always add 50% at least to what you think it will cost, and if you are then told by the partner this is too high for the client then explain you will likely need write off

If the partner confirms in writing that they want you to not put your time down for part of the work, then this will most certainly be in breach of your firm's policy on time recording, which you can use to hold against the partner should you fall out with them

I appreciate this is very defensive behaviour but unfortunately you will get blamed if you are negligent (not the partner who rushed you) so you need to cover yourself

Good firms always ensure that all work necessary to do the best job is recorded to the file. Good firms also don’t give that much of a crap about write-offs, because (a) they can generally charge a very hourly rate anyway that leaves ample headroom for some degree of write down and (b) their costs aren’t really closely tied to hours worked because they employ highly motivated people who are almost infinitely willing to flex their working hours for a more or less fixed salary, in order to do a good job and get on. The latter is really key to big law firm economics. Really key.

That's a very good point, and it's where the whole thing started to fall apart for me once I had children.

Obs I worked for a partner like this in a huge class action that had 7 lawyers on it doing nothing else . He was a nightmare and running a case that was outside his domain . This was a huge insurance case with all parties being insurers , and he was a general commercial litigator. 3 times a week he would write 5 page letters to the other side telling them how stupid they were and that they must settle . He would fire very specialist top end Silks on a whim without telling anyone , and hold back applications against us , not telling us until a week or so before the listing. 

Good firms always ensure that all work necessary to do the best job is recorded to the file. Good firms also don’t give that much of a crap about write-offs, because (a) they can generally charge a very hourly rate anyway that leaves ample headroom for some degree of write down and (b) their costs aren’t really closely tied to hours worked because they employ highly motivated people who are almost infinitely willing to flex their working hours for a more or less fixed salary, in order to do a good job and get on. The latter is really key to big law firm economics. Really key.

correct. sadly our finance team disagree with this philosophy which, shall we say, causes friction.

(From the way a number of partners I work with have approached this, I am guessing that they get some kind of black mark or fine if write-offs are too high. So what happens is that we get told to put a lot of our time on the client  relationship file and the partners promise to “credit” this time towards targets for bonus purposes which they may or may not have the ability to actually do. So far we have always got our bonuses but dunno what will happen in the next downturn)

Its a reasonable option if you want to earn £10k a week and are no good at football.