I hate getting stuck in the middle of things

I had a less than pleasant experience today, which reminds me why I don’t really want to do legal work anymore.  Briefly, last week I submitted a draft document to two lawyers with whom I work.  The brief itself had to be filed today.  I finally heard back from one of the lawyers yesterday, telling me he loved what I’d done, but had substantially rewritten it, and could I please edit it and put it to bed.  I said yes.  I got it in pieces between 6 and 9 last night, which intersected with family stuff.  The revised brief bore little relationship to my final product.

I did edit it for a couple of hours last night, and then began again very, very early this morning.  Barring a 45 minute exercise break, I kept at it from 6 a.m. to noon.  Although it was mostly new to me, I figured that was fine.  Mine is not the name on the pleading.  If people want me to be an editor, I will be.  I assumed, of course, that the two attorneys with whom I’d originally spoken had collaborated on the brief’s new direction.

Because it was too long, it took me forever to winnow it down.  That mostly involved my converting passive-voice sentences into active-voice sentences, a surprisingly time-consuming activity.  I filled in missing legal cites, straightened out confusing arguments, and tried to figure out if peculiar paragraphs were formatting or thinking errors.  Then I did the table of authorities (another slow activity) and the table of contents.  I got it back to the attorney by the skin of my teeth time-wise.  I knew it wasn’t great, but it’s better to file a brief with typos than not to file a brief at all.

An hour later, I got a call, not from the attorney who rewrote my draft (I’ll call him Attorney 1), but from the other guy (Attorney 2, naturally).  Attorney 2 expressed surprise at (a) the typos and (b) the brief itself.  He knows my work-product, so he was confused.  I took responsibility for the typos, explaining that I simply hadn’t had the time to give it a final proofreading.  (And as you guys know, even a final proofreading would have left me with a few small errors.)  Mostly, though, Attorney 2 was distressed by the brief’s quality.  I explained what had happened, but felt bad, because I felt that I was blaming Attorney 1. I told Attorney 2 that  I had assumed that both he and Attorney 1 had signed off on the draft I received yesterday.  (Never assume.  When you assume, you make an “ass” of “u” and “me.”)  In any event, there was no time to discuss it with Attorney 1 or 2 and then revamp it.

I should add here that both Attorney 1 and Attorney 2 are the nicest guys.  I enjoy working with them, and wish them both very well.  Their styles are quite different, and Attorney 2’s style is closer to mine, but I don’t have anything bad to say about either of them.  Thinking about it, I think this clash of styles, which goes to fundamental differences in the way both men approach a case, was a significant problem here.

Attorney 2 and I ended the call very nicely. I told him honestly that I appreciated him approaching me directly, rather than brooding and thinking bad things about my work.  He may still have left the call thinking bad things about my work, but at least he was thinking those thoughts about the work for which I was responsible, and not the other stuff.

I’d barely hung up from Attorney 2 when Attorney 1 called.  He was steaming, because Attorney 2 had said “How did the brief end up going out in this form?”  Attorney 1 wanted to share with me how unfairly he and I had been treated by Attorney 2.  All I could think to say is that Attorney 2 is a super nice guy and that, whatever his concerns were, he’d never do anything to undermine us.  I also again took responsibility for those damn typos.

I hate being in the middle of things like that.  I hate knowing things about people and not being able to speak to them honestly.  I hate feeling somewhat culpable, but not very culpable, but worrying that I’m going to get caught up in someone’s back draft.  I hate clashes of egos.  I have a very strong ego about my writing, but I’ll still usually back down, because all lawyers have strong egos about their writing.


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  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Did you send the original brief to both lawyers?
    Next time when you “Reply” to #1, would it be possible to “CC” #2….?  That way, he’d be in the loop from the beginning…..

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Next time, Earl, that’s exactly what I’ll do. It was very foolish of me not to do so in the first instance.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Given your erudition on this blog, I am amazed that any typo gets past you. I stand in awe of your command of the language.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      You’re too kind, Danny. One of the main reasons I manage to emerge with only a few typos is thanks to Earl Aagaard, as well as other kind readers, who send me emails or leave comments gently correcting my occasional flights into unintelligibility. I’m also struggling lately with a defective wireless keyboard, which was adding completely spontaneous typos, due to skipping, stuttering, repeating, and sheer creative writing. I kept thinking I could get the darn thing to work, but after a year of suffering, I’ve finally given up and ordered a new one.

  • DL Sly

    “I hate knowing things about people and not being able to speak to them honestly.”
    Why would you feel that you could not speak honestly with them?  Aren’t they adults?  One does not need to reveal *insider knowledge* wrt another person in order to speak your mind honestly about a situation for which your help was specifically requested.  (And given that they obviously felt that the short notice about the return of the revised brief was well within your capabilities.)  I would have initiated a conference call immediately after receiving the call from Lawyer #1 and cleared the air.
    Buuuut, then, I’m notorious for not letting things sit long enough to mold.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I agree with you DL Sly.  Unfortunately, for the second phone call from Attorney 1, I was awash in insider information that I couldn’t reveal.