Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

One of the most common ways that young lawyers believe they’re going to “get better” at essential legal skills is this: time.

It doesn’t work.

Sorry.

This woman has not practised tennis the right way – I can just tell…

5 Years Older – 1 Year of Practice

I’ve seen many types of young lawyer over the years, but the ones that stand out are at either end of the spectrum:

  1. The ones who, at every step, have insisted upon consistently improving their talents, skills and abilities.
  2. The ones who believe that simply turning up is enough to excel, and as a result end up as senior, but mediocre, lawyers.

Which do you want to be?

If you’re thinking “I object – counsel is leading the witness!” then you’re right.

The answer is obvious.

But the solution can be elusive.

A Commitment to Excellence

I’ve suggested that we need to be more interested in excellent legal drafting.

So how are you doing it?

Are you:

  • writing letters in the way that “your boss would”?
  • paying attention to all of the edits you receive and wondering “why”?
  • reading widely on the topic of legal drafting?
  • writing the same as you did at Law School?
  • Hoping that “typo free” letters are enough to be good?

Alas, I’ve got horribly bad news for you.

Eliminating errors from your work doesn’t mean it’s good. That just means it’s error free.

Law School didn’t teach you to write well. It taught you to write a particular way.

If your boss doesn’t correct you it doesn’t mean your draft was great. It just means they didn’t correct you.

Commitment to excellence means that with each word, sentence, paragraph – you are striving to deliver maximum impact and value. Is that what you do?

Old Habits Die Hard

Here’s the main problem.

If we learn to write as an academic over 4 years or more at Law School, and the solidify that with our efforts in practice – we’re simply developing a habit of bad legal drafting that’s going to be extremely hard to break.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.

In fact, the wrong practice can damage your ability write well for years.

Bad practice is why lawyers write things like “a true and correct copy” when something is either a copy or not (if it’s not a copy, then it’s not “true” either).

Bad practice is why lawyers write “verily believe” in an affidavit, when “believe” says the same thing.

It’s why we “refer to previous correspondence” just to ensure that ink is spent with no accomplishment.

And it’s why young lawyers perpetuate the bad habits of the past.

So What’s Your Plan?

I’m serious.

How are you going to improve your writing?

What are you going to do?

Tomorrow?

Next week?

Next month?

Or are you just going to hope that turning up to work each day is going to help you master your skills?

Let me know your plan in the comments.

Happy Lawyering!

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