The Paralegal’s guide for major mistakes

No matter what profession we are in, we will all make mistakes. Some people’s mistakes ( for example, surgeons) seem more serious than others ( for instance, circus clowns). The screw-ups of paralegals are probably somewhere in the middle.

We all make mistakes, regardless of how well-educated, experienced, or confident we may be.

It sounds a little flippant.

Guilt, shame, and anxiety can overwhelm us when we make mistakes. How can you handle all of this when you make the mistake?

Today, we will be discussing this topic. Let’s get started.

Be careful before you screw it up

We should still strive to avoid making professional mistakes, even though we know everyone will make mistakes at some point.

Knowing your weaknesses is the first step.

If you’re a new paralegal, read about the mistakes rookie paralegals make. These include, among other things, missing deadlines, providing legal advice, and calendaring mistakes.

Do whatever you can to make sure that you perform each task better than paralegals with similar experience levels.

You could seek out an experienced mentor to guide you in your early career or do some off-the-clock studying to ensure your skills are on par.

Even if you’re a perfectionist, mistakes can still happen. Let’s discuss the situation and what you should have done.

First, assess the damage

Many commentators will not recommend this step when discussing professional mistakes. In fact, most will tell you to immediately inform a supervisor of what happened.

As someone who has managed hundreds of employees in my career, I will add an additional step to the process.

The first thing to do when you make a mistake is to assess the full extent of the damage.

Imagine, for instance, that you sent a confidential email to a recipient other than your client. It’s obvious that this is a serious mistake and needs to be corrected immediately. You’ll need to have this information ready before you approach your supervisor in this case:

Name and email address for everyone to whom the email is being delivered;

When did the email go out?

You must include the exact content of your email, including any attachments.

You can also tell us if you tried to retract or recall the email.

You’d be surprised at how often a conversation occurs between an employee and their supervisor.

Employee: I accidentally sent confidential information to someone other than my client.

“To whom did you send it?”


It is a very frustrating conversation for your supervisor, who has to go back and review the situation to determine how serious the error is. You can save yourself (and them) from a lot of heartburn if you are sure of the mistake you made before reporting it.

Second: Report the damage

It’s time for your boss.

It’s the hardest part, right?

You may have negative thoughts running through your head. Will your boss shout at you? Will you get fired? You destroyed the client’s case.

All of these fears are perfectly normal, but they are unlikely to be realized.

It would be a far worse offense to conceal the mistake from your employer. In the case of accidentally disclosing confidential information, there is a formal process for both parties to deal with this situation.

Do it. Don’t delay too long. You should go to your manager as soon as possible after you have realized that you made a mistake.

Do not try to fix the problem yourself

After making a mistake, it is very common for people to want to “fix” the problem.

It’s understandable, but it’s best to not try and fix the mistake yourself when it comes to legal matters. The way you handle the error could have serious consequences.

Most articles on professional mistakes overlook this tip.

In the legal world, many things must be considered before an error can be “fixed.”

Consider, for instance, our situation of inadvertently disclosing information. How will the mistake be handled by the recipients, opposing counsels, the client, and the court? At every level, there is a strategy that needs to be developed. The attorneys are the ones who need to drive these strategies.

It’s likely that your boss or another senior employee in your company has made a similar mistake before. It’s likely that they have had good outcomes and handled things badly (possibly making the mistake even worse).

Accept their suggestions and let their experience guide you.

Prevent future mistakes

Your mistake has now been rectified.

When apologies are needed, they should be given with humility and sincerity. You don’t have to go overboard, but you should at least apologize to show you are aware of what you did.

It would be best if you also were prepared to share your ideas on how you can prevent professional mistakes from happening in the future.

Do not just make meaningless statements. Please spend some time thinking about the mistake you made and how to avoid it in the future. If the mistake is one that other people could easily make, then perhaps you should offer procedures to avoid it.

Using our previous example, create a list of steps to follow whenever confidential material is disseminated to anyone outside the company. I suggest that the auto-fill feature for email addresses be turned off when the first few letters are entered.

If you want to “recover,” make sure that part of your process includes forgiving yourself.

It can be difficult, especially if you make a big mistake, and the consequences will be severe. It’s necessary, though. You can’t stay in self-pity and shame forever.

Own up to your mistake and move on. You’ll return to your usual stellar work faster if you forgive yourself quickly.

Mistakes will inevitably occur.

Your professional success depends less on whether you made a mistake than how you handled it.

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