employee write up for lack of attention to detail
- December 2, 2020
That is true, but a) all law students get to work at top firms and b) some law students end up as junior attorneys at big firms and realize they hate it and leave after 6 months-1 year (this has happened actually pretty often with some of my classmates) and that isn’t a long enough time to have paid off all their loans. I wish you the best – it can be disheartening to tell teammates they don’t cut it. Have you ever needed to persuade your supervisor or someone above you that they had made a mistake? That’s at the very least a medical leave – she can’t keep doing her job at this level, for the sake of your clients and your firm. From your description, she is unable to meet the requirements of the job, even after feedback and with self-double-checks implemented. For example: could all her work flow through you? A lot. Attention to detail in - say- debugging code, is a lot different than attention to detail in filling out forms. Sure, although it’s possible she might need another degree as well. Except if it IS medical then she can receive the help she needs to succeed. Do you prefer to work with the "details" or the "big picture" of a situation? 0. The letter writer should not be teaching this person the skills they should have learned in elementary school, middle school and high school. As I enjoy tests, I do better at them, which helps me enjoy them more, which…happy test taking feedback loop! Looking back now, I think she was extremely lucky to get this warning before she even started college, so that she didn’t waste any of her time studying something she was not suited for. none of these things open the firm up to a malpractice suit (assuming she’s at a firm, which she likely isn’t based on the language of this letter). If there is someone in the firm who could proof the documents, this situation could work. She is saying “I need more time”. It takes no more time–and is much more helpful to me–than reading the document aloud to myself. Did she decide to just take the client’s word & blow off the “verify” part? If she does understand the gravity of the situation, and you’re determined to see if you can help her, you should sit down with her and have a discussion to find out where the doc review mistakes are coming from. how can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture? Oh god… .. immigration paperwork is maybe THE WORST place to make these kinds of errors! A year later, as I struggled day in and out in a marketing role, I realised I was a horrible fit for marketing, where empathy and people skills were necessary. And we would never struggle to find someone to fill a role. sooner? Marta sets the high standard of accuracy for the entire department. If there’s something more, that may be up to Jessie to figure out, and up to OP to actually say “y’know, maybe this career path isn’t for you if you can’t handle this kind of work” and hold her accountable for her inability to actually do the work necessary to be successful. A junior attorney who makes repeated, significant mistakes will usually not progress because nobody will have confidence in her and will therefore not give her work to do. This. Paying Attention to Detail Doesn’t Mean Aiming for Perfection. But she says that she’s tried paying more attention and it hasn’t solved the problem. Is there a way that you can suggest for her to get a medical check up to make sure that there is no medical reason for these mistakes. There’s no money for extra staff and they just throw cases at you when you start without a lot of onboarding or training. Whoa. The OP’s responsibility is to let Jessie know, if she didn’t already, that this problem is serious so she can take care of the other steps herself. Jessie and I have spoken about it. As can a simple math error. 2. The kind thing to do is to be crystal clear about the issues so that she knows why and has the information going forward in her job search(es). :) https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/its-different-girls-adhd/316674/, It doesn’t really matter. – compare a new and a previous version So it’s possible this employee thinks her work in writing should be really focused on the legal argument, and someone highly trained will pick up the mistakes. I totally agree with this. There’s no checklist that will help that. What’s the point of having Jessie around if someone else has to redo her job entirely? He’s doing this in work that’s meant to be published. (But again, not in all fields, and probably not in law). She would cheerfully say she’s done all these things and her documents would still be a mess. There was. I have worked with attorneys with disabilities before and the line is very clear. There’s no real reason to single out people with disabilities. takes time and experience, something a Junior attorney should be developing as they shadow other attorneys and occasionally fumble cases. It sounds like she’s breezing over her stuff instead of actually double-checking. If someone, ANYONE, a boss, a doctor, a coworker, SOMEONE, would have seriously brought up the idea to be tested for an executive function or learning disorder at some earlier point in my life, who knows what I might have achieved? I mean grammar, spelling, vocabulary, logic, math, & typos. The typos are annoying but this kind of thing is structural and really fundamental. The fact that reasonable lawyers can disagree on this doesn’t make it seem like this one was about attention to detail (or the lack of it). It does and it doesn’t… I went to a mid-size private university (around 10,000 students), but I was in a very focused and close-knit arts program. BigLaw attorneys turn their noses up at smart, competent people who can’t swing expensive private school tuition. 5 years at uni, all that debt… to be told she needs to move careers? No no no. My supervisor is like this. Or policy (my first step after the “dear God I’m bad at representing clients” realization) or working for a legislature (my third step after that realization). Be sure to write down exactly what you say to the employee so there is no question or "That's not what I thought you meant"s to deal with later. I got into a T14 school and chose to go to a well respected local school instead because I received a full scholarship and would have been paying for school myself – yep, I saved a quarter of a million dollars and have close to no debt compared to my colleagues. I’m a librarian and I’m taking law classes, and I am dumbfounded that the junior attorney got so far into her programming without realizing it was a bad fit. Still occasionally cleaning up back to my usual standard at work. Check through document that party A is correctly identified using this note. That, and it’s getting extremely hard to keep the “you’re a moron, off you go” look off my face when I deal with him :S, off topic rant justification: people are bad with details in all SORTS of industries and apparently it doesn’t stop them rising to the top… it just annoys their subordinates no end. Is it possible that Jessie is finding the workload overwhelming, and as a result is rushing through things more than she should (to get to the next task), isn’t double-checking (even if she says she is), and losing focus after being at it for hours? She has to figure out for herself which way to go. I sometimes found I was making mistakes when my B12 or iron was down, and was fine once it was dealt with. It’s a type of writing you literally only use to graduate and pass the bar exam. It would have been a bad idea for me to try to become a theoretical mathematician because, frankly, there probably isn’t enough accommodation in the world for me to succeed at that. Law just may not be the right field for her. I used to be a legal assistant, and our firm had been fired by clients for having typos, so this letter gives me anxiety flashbacks. Next time she writes a document, she should be checking her check-list before handing you the document. ), it makes a LOT of sense. I have a nit-picky friend who will spell-check for me (for a fee), but that probably can’t work for something that’s confidential. On average, about 50% of lawyers leave the profession after 5 years. That’s a really good point, especially since it does sound like the senior lawyers in the OP’s office aren’t reviewing their own case evidence prior to trial and rely on junior lawyers, like Jessie, to summarize the evidence or create documents. Those are really serious errors. Exactly. If she has done the work to truly understand and write up the case, then it should be relatively simple to talk through many of the things she should have checked / identified as critical and to identify places where she is missing critical parts of the case. I went through a period of brain fog that ended up being related to my diet (food intolerance). If this person is a new attorney, we’re talking about someone who is at least 25 and has a graduate degree. But it DOES make skilled people more effective when properly implemented. She’s aware of this, and our managers have raised it with her (but not put her on a performance improvement plan). It failed miserably. I’m a librarian and I was terrified I wouldn’t get a job or that I wouldn’t actually like my position. What do you call 1L and 2L summers, then? tell me not to go. I would find it pretty reasonable to say something like, “These performance problems are really serious. I was going to point this out as well. We do these for pilots, astronauts, surgeons and all sorts of folks in life or death situations, so why not here as well? The place where I would recommend helping her if you have time is in reviewing this thought process with her. Some people become attorneys because they cannot do math. Many are now CPAs after putting in an unimaginable amount of time and effort into taking (and re-taking) the exams, but I wouldn’t be able to recommend them for a real-life job in good conscience. I fired our immigration lawyer over exactly this sort of thing. I do think it’s possible that someone who is starting out in their career might not feel comfortable divulging a known or suspected health issue to their boss’ attention, or might not realize what accommodations are available to them. It’s not enough to lay out solutions and hope things improve. In hindsight, my attention deficit issues were glaring from the time I entered school — ask any woman with ADD if she has that telltale first-grade report card that pegs her as a “daydreamer.”. Specifically, on June 9, 2008, you attempted to turn an auto scrubber around in a part of the hall that was to narrow. And there is nothing you can do about that (except keep her off your cases). How did you think about confirming that?”). A lot of people seem baffled by the fact she could pass law school and the bar and be struggling like this, but hey – practicing law is way different and requires different applications of skills. I don’t think that makes sense here. No sugar coating, no niceness. I have several friends who left the profession after paying off their educational debt, and they have never been happier. Or that people who learn slowly shouldn’t be here–medicine is ALL ABOUT learning quickly and thinking on your feet! These are good ideas but, yeah, as a client I would be LIVID if I was billed for one minute of this. Those evidence mistakes were 90% of my nightmares when I first started practicing. Because sometimes your client lies to you. She could understand abstractly that being accurate mattered, but when she talked about her errors, every mistake was a unique and uncorrelated event that would never repeat. if you have pointed it out and there’s been no improvement, it might be kind to suggest she looks for something else. Is it possible that in a quest to be kind, you’ve prioritized sounding supportive over making sure that she understands that these mistakes will prevent her from being successful in her job, and could (will?) I don’t understand how this system helps her, though? The second decision was just as critical and it was not on the checklist for an emergency like this one. Minor errors may be amenable to this? If there’s anything that can help this junior attorney, it seems like this is it right here. The junior atty might be an adult but if she is a young-ish adult she may not be aware that health issues could be causing a problem. Maybe a different type of law role (in-house counsel? The fact she is a lovely person is supportive of this theory. Or that people with ADHD shouldn’t be here because medicine is ALL ABOUT prolonged focus! Depending on the kind of cases OP’s firm does, a lot of the time you’re looking for internal consistency and making sure that everything adds up. Like, it didn’t tug her heart strings, sorry your dad is dying but meh? My go to analogy is that I’m a paid Cassandra, predicting the future (that no one listens to). Does she seem overwhelmed? Employees Write-Up Templates. Hiring someone for editing for things like typos is one thing. *does Evidence reflect plaintiff’s description? Attention to detail is a pretty integral part of the job and if I were your client I’d be wondering why you’re incapable of doing such a basic task. I notice myself having these communication fails with my 3yo more and more. Things your colleague should do for every case (that do not require you to help her): I second that they’re all very time consuming. I haven‘t read ALL comments yet. That’s really not the OP’s place to say or encourage. I think this is really helpful. So many potential failures. Lack of commitment to job, unconcerned with quality or product/service, disinterested in current assignments, frequent references to job dissatisfaction, low energy level, needs frequent prodding to initiate activities or complete tasks. In fact, I suspect that you can’t. The first step to take to improve your attention to detail at work is to get organised.Now, getting organised doesn’t mean that you need to tidy up your workspace and waste time going through your stuff, but it does mean that you need to start using your calendar. I also design the testing processes to confirm that i’s are continuing to be dotted. There’s a lot of hierarchy and keeping-up-with-the-joneses, as well as a good ol’ boys culture, among lawyers, and it can be difficult for folks to forge their own path and stay centered in those environments. But the trust would be so gone for me. It would be a kindness if you can help her realize the severity of these problems and the need to fix them (and if they’re unfixable, to consider other law-related or non-law jobs). Because its going to really stink if you’re dyslexic and take a job transposing numbers and end up getting fired for making mistakes. For free more weeks errors or misses in evidence, maybe tell her than they’re is something she missed in the 3rd paragraph, and see if she can find it herself. Also are you the OP sure that the worker knew what the client said the records showed? I’m a lawyer and checklists (and Gantt charts) are my life. I make myself a cup of tea. Or at least that is my experience in school. They were just really bad fits for accounting and had to work 10x as hard as others to achieve the same results. 2. For semi-important document I force myself through all these steps. I think colleges and other places of higher education should work to help students get an idea of what various jobs are like in their major – school and work are very different. Attention To Detail Examples. It’s not necessarily as obvious that it should be done as people think. I think this kind of thinking is something that can be learned. My managers drilled into me that no one was supposed to get overtime, and it was my responsibility to check every day, and if someone was drifting over 8 hours, to leave them a note that they needed to clock out early. My personal favorite worst: A character with diabetes was given insulin to treat low blood sugar. It really sucks when that happens when someone is trying hard — and especially when they’re a lovely person and you genuinely like them — but it does sometimes happen. A couple things that helped me – I created a list of things I had to check in each document – first, when I worked as a prosecutor, I turned my Microsoft word grammar and spelling check up to 11. But lots of employees would find it inappropriate for their boss to suggest this, and the OP is not a medical professional. True, you check after. One of my coworker’s husband went all the way through architecture school, practiced architecture for 2 – 3 years, and hated it. There are people who can do this job without the level of coaching you are talking about. I felt like for the amount of money we were paying they would at least do a cursory spell check and proofread before sending me back contracts and documents? That’s a 72 mile drive! If she doesn’t show significant improvement (or choose to leave voluntarily), then terminate her employment. However, many accomodations are quite possible, or even valuable, at work. But not carefully looking at evidence and what it means is not the same blind spot, and it’s weird to me she could have gotten through law school if she had a problem with critical thinking. Typos I *certainly* have my systems in place. What is the jurisdiction? If you want to help her with her legal writing, including typos and using the wrong names, advise her to read the draft to herself aloud. I remember a story a few months back about a lawsuit that hinged on the lack of using an oxford comma. I mean, it is a relatively simple thing to set up systems to work around these issues. And whatever the diagnosis, this could take far longer than the organization can afford. Checklist: I am likewise salty that Jessie there has a job while I’ve often struggled to pay my bills as a solo. And if you cannot do it, you should not be in litigation. The repercussions could be truly awful. I’m not sure I totally agree with Alison here. He’s still laughing but I’m getting a vibe he’s offended by that… and frankly I’m having a hard time keeping the “you’re a moron, off you fuck” look off my face when I deal with him now too :S. Onr item to check – maybe pop on unexpectedly amd watch her work? Finalize on the computer, print a hard copy and review for needed changes, make changes on the computer, then review another hard copy – repeat until it is 100% perfect. Are there times you have had difficult experiences working with details at work? They also based it on their own assumption of what a doctor needs to be. I know I’m a week late with this comment – but I am also a supervisory attorney for young attorneys and the absolute best way to do this is to PRINT things and review HARD COPIES. I will also have to do things that no one else does to make up for it, and that’s fine with me. You have to be able to pull out the relevant facts of a situation and craft that into a narrative that’s understandable and easy to follow. She’ll beat herself up enough. Sounds like an ingenious murder method: “Priscilla, I think the shed may be crooked. As for ordinary typos, it really irks me that I’m a professional with an advanced degree, and my boss judges me on what I consider a secretarial skill. So my checklist always includes a section to write down mistakes I do find so I can search the whole product for them. On a fax. The thing about step 0 is, people are sometimes unreasonably sure. You may not know what’s really setting off a student’s issues because they won’t tell you, and they won’t tell you because of how aggressively universities like to deny you basic human compassion when you do ask for help. The difference is that workplaces are required to accommodate me with software and tools, whereas the uni tests were all on paper so the only accommodation was extra time. He laughs it off, and just shrugs and says he ‘doesn’t see it’ or that he ‘just missed it when he was writing.’ It shows up in things he’s written and things he’s edited– as in he has been known to insert errors into other work. (No idea what my IQ is, never tested that.) Yeah I was kind of wondering how the junior attorney described in the OP got THROUGH law school … Not how she got in. On the flip-side, some legal positions are for true generalists. OP, you have a great opportunity to help this woman identify a role where she might actually excel and be happy. I work with complex financials, and some of what I’m working with is checking for discrepancies down to literal pennies. Especially the evidence issues. That’s exactly what I was thinking. This stuff is serious – real life consequences – not just a school exercise. Exactly. I’ve worked as a legal secretary in several different types of practice – estates, corporate, family mediation, real estate, tax…. Harry demonstrates incredible attention to detail in the workplace. Being meticulous about doing it after the task is done is a key thing, though. Can I ask how you came to the decision to leave law and how you decided what to do next? But she’s not missing specific tasks every time. Of doing something like this, getting into law school and THROUGH law school and the bar, only to find I’ve failed and it was all for nothing. It’s a Very Big Deal. :). -Print out document and read it out loud to yourself (at home if necessary). I would encourage you to reexamine your assumptions about what signals competency or capacity in the legal profession. Corporate counsel at a medium-sized company, for example. And how would a “checklist” correct mistakes, such as a person’s spelling? So this student will have plenty of company!). Mathematics is a subject that requires a lot of attention to detail (after all, if you get one number wrong the whole answer ends up being wrong) and are a great way to improve your attention to detail. Thank you. I can tell you with absolute confidence that, while I’d still have a hard time with certain aspects of college, now that I’ve had a decade of living with mental illness under my belt it wouldn’t be the trainwreck it was when I was a teenager suddenly trying to power through on willpower alone). Said solo had the most type ridden filings I’ve ever seen, typically 10 a page. Any chance she is overworked/overwhelmed? I don’t understand why Jessie hasn’t been fired yet. So when i first saw the letter i was like “oh so OP is nitpicky about typos”…then i read on and wow mixing up parties is not cool. hi Dawn, what is your department or type of role called? Run grammar checker. It’s stuff an attorney needs to be able to do, for the sake of the client. Maybe an attorney is really good at taking depositions, negotiating with opposing parties, wrangling clients, or big picture strategy. I agree that this sounds like a comprehension issue. You no longer trust that the employee will perform some aspect of their job; the employee thinks that you are out to get them which is confirmed when you write them up. The point is that checklists are not, and cannot, replace skill and the “instinct” that comes from practice. What I mean is that you check things off item by item so you can see where you are up to. Otherwise, in order to be successful she will need to find some tricks to help her (cheat sheets on the cases defining the parties and checking them religiously? Things that have helped me: Parties’ name wrong seems to be from her using precedents and not double checking them. I just got a new job at a very prominent organisation. I also really liked the suggestion downthread from Princess Consuela Banana Hammock to have her do document reviews and proofread other junior attorneys’ work. Meds AND cbt (therapy) helped a lot, I am a valuable teammember where I work now. I also find that I have to be really careful when I update old templates. Even the attention to detail stuff is big – these are NOT just typos. They were real estate documents and time was of the essence. Checklists are not really a practical solution when you work in a legal environment with billable hours, especially if your peers don’t need them and can do the same work in a much shorter time. These are serious, fundamental, once-in-a-blue-moon kinds of errors, ones you learn from and never make again. I work in e-discovery, and the platforms we use only require a person to review a handful of documents before it is able to logically determine what documents are pertinent to the case. Even if you get a good LSAT score, you’ve got to be confident enough you’re going to get a BigLaw job or help from family to pay that six-figure tuition for a top-tier law school (or even undergrad – I grew up middle class, and nearly everyone I know went to a good but not elite college – I graduated with 500+ people and two went to Ivies, one went to a SLAC, one went to a Seven Sisters, and the vast majority of the others went to college went to a state school. There are literally Supreme Court cases that hinge on the placement of a comma or the ordering of a statute. That’s more alarming, but common for attorneys with very little litigation experience. She’s already in a mode where her instinct is try to accommodate this, and she really needs to focus on what the bar for the role is and communicating that to Jessie. Also don’t forget that she’ll be competing for jobs against people who can do these things, without a checklist. She then took the Bar, failed, took it again, failed again… it was heart wrenching but in the end she realized that she had to let go of the time/financial investment and recognize that she was not going to pass that test. Your clients deserve better! It was absolutely miserable and destroyed his health. As the client, I would be outraged if my fate was in the hands of someone who is making what sound like very basic but significant mistakes. I know its not idea but if she is great otherwise but not at grammar then that may be something she can have hired out. Last year we ran a news story about a scientific paper where the researchers’ own university press office overstated the scale of the experiment by a factor of more than 1000. In order for the written feedback on your evaluations to have a long-lasting impact, you […] I think some of us just have a finer sifter installed from the get-go. Fields where knowledge of law is very useful, but ability to practice it isn’t? Yes yes yes to drilling into people to always ask questions. Otherwise, wondering if there are other tasks she could do that don’t involve issue spotting… It seems like the grammatical and typographical errors could be managed by having administrative staff help out, but the evidentiary review… yikes. Critical thinking skills can seem a more difficult issue to overcome, but they are taught to people every day. Getting through law school and passing the bar are not easy tasks. Getting the wrong person? Another colleague has said to me privately that she thinks there’s a “connection” problem between what’s in her head and what comes out of her mouth, which I agree with. Checklists can be great – and I wasn’t advocating for them – I was demonstrating how they helped *me*. The information you’re given is more likely to be relevant than not; certainly the information you’re given will be sufficient to get the right answer, and will very likely be trustworthy. “Not only is this going to cause your firm to lose credibility in the legal community and with judges”. It took me a few years to see what I was doing and learn how to go back and fix things. OH yikes OP – Allison’s advice is spot on. Bringing her attention to this could make an ENORMOUS difference in her life (and no harm done if she doesn’t or isn’t interested in listening.) It has literally no bearing on any other factor that makes someone a good law student or a good lawyer. Along with it, I hope the client is not being charged for the over and above effort needed to review and coach this junior lawyer. I can only speak on law classes compared to graduate library classes, but it’s so much easier to get through library school and realize you are a bad fit.
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