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Mistakes happen

"An expert is a man [or woman] who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field."

That's a quote from Niels Bohr, winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics. He later escaped German arrest during World War II and went on to help with the British contribution to the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. Bohr's mistakes could have resulted in the loss of his own life and countless others.

When we make mistakes in our profession, there can be significant consequences, too. We aren't making bombs or escaping secret agents, but we are advising and advocating for clients, and the subject matter is often of great importance. Unfortunately, fear of making a mistake can be paralyzing.

The solution, as frightening as it sometimes seems, is to set a strategy and work through it. That strategy may involve spending 10 minutes outlining the issue, two hours reading blogs and law review articles, then another hour on the substantive law. You may benefit from seeking guidance on a legal listserv, like MyBarAccess discussions, or you might just bounce the issue off of a colleague to get another practitioner's gut reaction.

Whatever you do, don't let the possibility of mistake paralyze you. It accomplishes nothing and prolongs the fear.

Mistakes happen. They are part of life. Think of a logical plan to resolve the issue, then get over it and move on. If you do make a mistake, don't worry too much. Most all mistakes are correctable. And remember Niels Bohr. You may feel inferior in the moment, but you're a step closer to becoming an expert.

Tip courtesy of Damian J. Turco, Esq., Mass Injury Firm, Boston

Published September 1, 2014

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To learn more about the Law Practice Management Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members, contact LPM Section Chair Cynthia E. MacCausland or Vice Chair Damian J. Turco.
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