Incomprehensibly Unprofessional

ABAJournal.com has a post entitled “Judge Labels Lawyer’s Motion Nearly Incomprehensible, Marks Up Errors” about

A federal judge irked at grammatical and typographical errors in a motion for dismissal has blasted the Florida lawyer who filed it and ordered him to copy his client on the criticism.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell denied the motion to dismiss without prejudice, saying that it was “riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire motion incomprehensible.” … Above the Law has the story.

….

The judge’s marked-up version of Glasser’s motion pointed out these problems:

–Several examples of excess spacing.

–Incorrect use of apostrophes.

–Typographical errors (using the word “this” instead of “thus” and the word “full” instead of “for”).

–Incorrect placement of periods and commas outside of quotation marks.

–Incorrect capitalization.

–Wrong word use (using the phrase the plaintiff “had attended on filing” this action, instead of saying the plaintiff had “intended” to file an action).

–One very long sentence.

As an educator I “harp” on these points incessantly attempting to make my students understand how important the “small things” are in a law office. We all make mistakes, especially in informal setting such a blog, and many, taken individually, go unnoticed or are quickly forgiven and forgotten. But enough of those small errors over time (in some cases a very small time), can be quite damaging even when they do not result in actions such as that described above. Judges and juries can perceive consistent sloppiness as reflecting a poor case, one in which you have so little confidence that you do not care enough to proofread your work. Small mistakes in wording can make a sentence or paragraph meaningless. Judges do not have the time to try to figure out what you meant, so the opportunity to make your point is lost. And sometimes people will conclude that if they cannot trust you on the easy stuff, they would be foolish to trust your legal analysis and interpretation, case citations, etc.

Use spell check and grammar check. There is no excuse for simple misspelling of words in pleadings, letters to clients and the like. However, do not let spell check replace careful proofreading. “Trail” is spelt correctly, but that is unimportant if the correct word is “trial.” The same is true of “council” when the word you meant to use was “counsel.” (Both of these occur frequently.)

Remember, to a large degree professionalism is in the details.

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