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The Get Out of Jail Free Card

Everyone screws up.

  • It could be forgetting an appointment.
  • It could be missing a deadline.
  • It could be a mistake that cost the firm a significant amount of money or that even damages the reputation of the other attorneys.

It’s coming. Expect it. Don’t be surprised when it happens.

Is an Ounce of Prevention the Best Cure?

Is there something you can do now, before the mistake happens, that will protect you from the fallout? How can you be ready when you’re not even sure how you’re going to screw up? There is a way. You can immunize yourself against the consequences of your error. You can do something now to protect yourself for later.

Here’s the deal: relationships matter. In fact, relationships are pretty much the only thing that matters.

When you screw up with your law partner, things will be fine if you’ve built a solid connection between the two of you. If your relationship is deep enough, is trusting enough, and is built on understanding each other, then you’ll survive the mistake.

When you screw up with your clients, things will be fine if you’ve built a solid relationship. You need to have spent the time listening to your clients, returning their calls, and agreeing with them when they’re right.

The same is true of your boss, your employees, and your referral sources. If the relationship is solid, you’ll be okay. Sure, there may be some upset, some disappointment, and some distress, but in the end, you’ll survive. The relationship will allow for the mistake, and the connection will continue.

If you’ve failed to build the relationship—if you haven’t invested the time, the energy, the listening, and the self-disclosure—then the mistake will likely do great damage.

Now is the time to invest in the relationships in your life. Now is the time to talk to the client more, talk to the boss more, and talk your partners and associates and staff more. Investing the time now, before the mistake, is the way to be certain you survive the screw-up when it happens.

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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.