It is comforting to know that commercial solicitors in private-practice are purveyors of perfection.
But, this is a tale of a double-edged sword.
To the trainee tasked with cross-reference checks or entrusted with the heady duty of formatting the numbering system in a fifty-pager, it can lead to a dangerous misconception about the real world, a comforting sense that everything is ordered and that big businesses operate in an organised fashion.
Surely, the trainee thinks, no one would ever let a contract progress to signature with the wrong party names blazoned proudly on the front page, or a rogue "(a)" where there should be a "5.5.1".
It is therefore a rude awakening when that same trainee, raised on a gospel of “attention to detail”, is loosed into the wide-world to undertake a client secondment.
Perhaps they turn a blind eye to the first contract they encounter, signed in 2014 and dotted with typos (the little scoundrels). They might even overlook the first “Error: Clause Reference Not Found” in an executed agreement. Undeterred, they will try to format their contracts to the standard they have grown accustomed to, with no support from a savvy PA (“they don’t do typing here”), painstakingly aligning and emboldening and finally, guilt-ridden, resorting to “format painter”.
And, if they only stay in-house for three months, that might be the end of the story. They will scurry back to their private offices, ears still ringing with the open-plan roar, like an escapee from the zoo who, realising that freedom is not quite what it was cracked up to be, returns willingly to the cage.
But for the six-monther, or the career-changer, there will come a time when he or she realises that such studiousness goes unrewarded, that the sheer volume of contracts passing through makes perfectionism an unachievable goal. It is at this point that they will learn the secret all in-house lawyers know - that large, successful companies are built on shoddy contracts, possibly based on precedents last reviewed in 1999.
Because of this there is a word that the in-house lawyer values that is anathema to the well-bred associate. That word is “workable” (although "commercial" sometimes steps in). To the in-house lawyer a workable contract is often the best that can be hoped for.
So, my advice to the trainee who beats themselves up because they missed the double 8.4 - it’s a drop in the ocean, everything will be fine (probably).