Is Your In-House Team Missing an Editor?
The hard thing about words is, you can't recall them once they leave your mouth.
It's not like you can delete a memo that has already been sent, either. But the problem speaks volumes about the need for editors. Every legal department needs one because if you don't catch certain writing errors, the boss probably will.
Even though you will make mistakes, you definitely don't want your boss to see them.
Stephen R. Williams learned that lesson the hard way. He is in-house counsel for a hospital network. One day, he gave a junior associate an assignment to research and write a memo about a new federal regulation. The associate returned two weeks later with the memo and grim look on his face. "Before he could sit down, he bluntly said our current business practice was in blatant violation of the new regulation and we must correct it immediately," Williams said.
That was bad enough, but to make a bad situation worse, the associate had already sent the memo with recommendations to the company's department heads. Somehow, the junior attorney didn't get the memo that you always check with the boss before sending anything up the chain.
Williams fretted about a solution, and finally decided to go with the flow and follow the associate's recommendations. It's better to eat a little crow than have it fly back in and peck you on the face. Or some such saying.
To solve the problem in your own department, you could rely on robot editors, but you can't really yell at them when they make mistakes. What lawyer wants to miss out on that?
For his part, Williams concluded he should never forget to ask to review an associate's work before it goes out. Editing is part of the job. "Because even though they may be possible, ex post facto edits are a difficult pill to swallow," he said.
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