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Author Topic: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?  (Read 550 times)

notanassociate

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Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« on: 08-05-18 at 12:36 am »

Hi all,

I am a junior associate at a law firm. I am working for a number of different partners. Some of them do not like me, for personal reasons. Unfortunately, the ones who don't like me seem to be the more important ones that I work for.

I am also starting to get harsh feedback from the partners, in that they think that I am inattentive to detail. For example, occasionally, I'll write an application with a wrong reference numeral, grammatical error, or other typo. These applications are flat fee, time limited, etc.

I somewhat agree with the feedback because, ideally, all of my drafts are error free. However, I am not sure this is a realistic expectation when doing flat fee work. Especially if the partners like to tinker around and have me do multiple drafts (which, of course, the clients do as well).

So my question is, how big of a problem is my alleged inattention to detail? Am I just getting set up to get fired because the important partners don't like me? In other words, is it possible to do perfectly drafted applications all the time, especially when doing flat fee work?  I only ask because I am looking for a new position, and I don't want to have the same problem (inattention to detail) crop up when I get to the new position.

I appreciate the help.
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ClaimMaster

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #1 on: 08-05-18 at 04:46 pm »

Quote
So my question is, how big of a problem is my alleged inattention to detail? Am I just getting set up to get fired because the important partners don't like me? In other words, is it possible to do perfectly drafted applications all the time, especially when doing flat fee work?  I only ask because I am looking for a new position, and I don't want to have the same problem (inattention to detail) crop up when I get to the new position.


Big surprise here - law partners want associates who pay attention to detail, so they don't have to proofread your work.  Some of it is subjective, of course, and some partners are notoriously difficult.  In my old firm, well-liked, "star" associates could turn in drafts on napkins written with crayons, while less-liked associates were chewed out for minor typos. That's just how things are in life in general.  You can't force partners to like you, but you can make yours and their lives easier by not having errors in your drafts. Start by allocating more time for proofreading at the end of each draft (sleeping on a draft and proofreading with fresh eyes in the morning is often suggested).  Also, consider using proofreading/automation software to catch mechanical mistakes and save some additional time for extra proofreading.  That said, it's doubtful they'll fire you merely for making typos unless the clients routinely complain or they can't find projects for you to work on.
« Last Edit: 08-06-18 at 12:38 pm by ClaimMaster »
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UVAgal4

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #2 on: 08-06-18 at 04:01 am »

Not sure whether it is legit or not, but try to minimize as much as possible. if you can, let your work rest a day or so before proofreading and handing it in, and also print it out if you can, or even change the font/format, etc. so that it looks like "new work" or "someone else's work" to your eyes, because after reading the same pages over and over, in the same format (on screen, Times New Roman, 1.5 spacing, font size 11, etc.) you can become blind to errors.
I would take my patent drafts and copy-paste into the US Patent publication format (two columns, etc.) and it would help me feel like I was reading someone else's work that I had to evaluate.
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EvilLost

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #3 on: 08-06-18 at 06:41 am »

For example, occasionally, I'll write an application with a wrong reference numeral, grammatical error, or other typo. These applications are flat fee, time limited, etc.

If this happens rarely, I don't think it is an issue at all (we all make mistakes). I don't know what you mean by "occasionally" but -in my opinion- if this is happening even once a month, it is happening too often.

How willing they are to overlook these types of mistakes may also be directly proportional to the substantive quality of your work. If you are drafting stellar applications and brilliant OA responses, then nobody will care about a typo....but if your drafts/responses are already weak or average, then these kind of mistakes will be telling of a deeper issue.

I think this will partly depend on the size of the law firm (the smaller you are, the more these things can slide).

All of the work our firm does is flat-fee. That is no excuse for mistakes. Are you being given enough time to complete your tasks? Ask other juniors at your firm if they also feel a time crunch.

EDIT: I strongly agree with the others to let the work sit overnight. I always "sleep on it" and review it one final time in the morning before submitting it to the higher ups. I can say that almost every single time, I end up changing something (whether a typo, improving a sentence, etc).
« Last Edit: 08-06-18 at 07:15 am by EvilLost »
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fewyearsin

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #4 on: 08-06-18 at 10:03 am »

This kind of feedback is VERY legitimate.  If you are missing things like this (typos, application numbers, dates, etc.), then what else are you missing?  As a reviewer, if I see that all the small, easy to verify details are correct, then I am more confident that you got the rest correct.  But if you are missing simple things that can be easily verified, I am not confident in your work overall.  Is that fair?  I don't know, but it is reality.

The other posters idea to sit on your work and then do one last review is SPOT ON.  I usually don't have a day to wait, but here's my flow.  When I finish up a project for review, I print it out, go grab a drink of water or run to the bathroom or just go outside and walk the perimeter of the building.  Then I come back, read over my draft one last time before turning it in. 

Remember, also, that many of your clients won't be able to tell whether your substantive arguments are amazing or crap.  But they CAN tell whether you have a typo (date, grammar, application number, etc.).  So your reviewing partners may be nitpicky on those things because they, in turn, are nitpicked by clients about those things.  This doesn't mean that you skimp on the actual substantive part of the response, but know that the boring details part are the easier part to review/catch errors by a reviewer.

And don't discount those "small" things.  If you mistype an application number when identifying it to the Patent Office, your reply may not make it in to the right application, which means you didn't actually reply, which means that the application will go abandoned.  That's not a "small" error.

Patent prosecution is largely about these boring details.  The sooner you learn good habits, the better for your long term career.

As always, good luck! 
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This comment: does not represent the opinion or position of the PTO or any law firm; is not legal advice; and represents only a few quick thoughts from the author, not a well-researched treatise.  Seek out the advice of a competent patent attorney for answers to specific questions you may have.

novobarro

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #5 on: 08-06-18 at 12:48 pm »

agree with all the above, i have small typos too every now and then, but so does everybody.  I get transferred cases that were worked on by senior partners and sometimes find typos in their work too.  If you are repeating the same typos over and over, that could be an issue.  Repeatedly not checking the application no, inventor name, etc. 

Definitely agree with letting it set, as mentioned by others, I often reword, find typos after my final reading.  I try to work ahead so that I have time to let it sit overnight.  My work flow is usually, a very thorough review in word, print it out, and next morning, read it again on paper. 
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ClaimMaster

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #6 on: 08-06-18 at 01:56 pm »

Quote
Remember, also, that many of your clients won't be able to tell whether your substantive arguments are amazing or crap.  But they CAN tell whether you have a typo (date, grammar, application number, etc.).  So your reviewing partners may be nitpicky on those things because they, in turn, are nitpicked by clients about those things.

This is very true. Most in-house attorneys who manage sizable portfolios typically don't have the time or desire to dig into the substance of each individual response/application prepared by their outside counsel. That's why they send the drafting work to your firm.  If they see shoddy work product coming from you, that reflects poorly on the partner/firm.  If this happens often enough, they just might start shifting the work to another firm that does cleaner work. It's pretty easy to do especially when you have multiple firms doing the same work for some of the larger clients.

Sorry, this is just the nature of this business.  It is somewhat harder for those who don't naturally possess good attention to detail (unless you have a large book of business).  And if you think patent prosecutors are anal-retentive, try not reviewing your work in litigation. There simply cannot be any typos/cite mistakes in the documents presented to the court or the credibility of the entire argument goes down to drain. Those docs are often reviewed by 3-4+ different people before they are filed.
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EvilLost

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #7 on: 08-07-18 at 06:46 am »

I would add that many (most?) large clients keep "scores" for their outside counsels. If your work product is regularly late, has noticeable mistakes (ie typos), etc, then your firm score will go down and they will begin giving the work to other firms with a higher score.

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UVAgal4

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Re: Is This Feedback Legitimate or Just a Cover?
« Reply #8 on: 08-08-18 at 06:08 am »

Not sure whether it is legit or not,

Just wanted to clarify that I meant I am not sure if they are just trying to run you out and looking for an excuse.
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