A Case Study: Attention to Detail

One of the key qualities strong associates demonstrate is attention to detail. Your job is to sweat the small stuff. But it’s not always clear what this means in practice. Let’s take a look at an example.

The task: Junior attorney is asked to turn comments on a draft brief. Senior attorney has already entered comments into the brief using tracked changes.

Junior attorney does the following:

  • Reviews the changes one by one, accepting them and making necessary edits as she reviews: deletes an extra space here, fixes a typo there, etc.
  • After accepting all comments, junior attorney double checks her work by looking back at the edited draft from senior attorney to make sure she addressed all the tracked changes.
  • Junior attorney sends the revised draft back to senior attorney.

The grade: How would you grade junior attorney’s attention to detail here?

I would give her a B-.

Why not an A? She seems to have done a pretty good job! She looked at each edit individually and double checked her work by referring back to the original edits.

Well, she forgot two very important steps:

First, junior attorney did not review a clean version of the edited section to make sure it flows well with all the edits incorporated.

Second, junior attorney did not review the entire document to ensure that the revisions make sense.

Why are both steps important? Here is what happened on one of my cases just the other week:

A partner provided comments on a draft brief. The junior associate entered them as requested but didn’t read the entire brief again. If he had, he would have realized that some of the partner’s comments resulted in duplicate argument sections! The partner added an argument to the beginning that was essentially repeated in slightly different language at the end.  Fortunately, the partner caught it quickly upon his review of the full brief.  This was an easily fixable oversight, but it is also the kind of thing the junior associate should have flagged when sending the edited draft back to the partner.

Takeaway: Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you forget about the big picture!

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash