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Screwing Up Without Really Trying

May 13, 2003 - 6:40 p.m.

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Last Five Entries:
The Party's Over
July 11, 2004
The Next Day
My Nervous Breakdown
True Confessions: My Life as a Female Impersonator
March 15, 2004
Bite Me
February 29, 2004



If I had one of those "I feel" icons, I suppose today I would have the "idiot" icon.

This is as close as I can get.

I'm feeling: Mr. Yuck poisoned with idiocy.

Or maybe this.

I'm feeling: Idiot Clown like a clown.

I screwed up in one of my cases. It's a bankruptcy case, and bankruptcy is an area in which I'm supposed to have expertise. However, there's a difference between representing debtors (the guys who escape from their debts) and creditors (the guys who get screwed by the debtors). My experience is heavy in debtor work, which is easy work. The lawyers who do creditor work need to know some of the more complex stuff that doesn't apply to most debtors' cases.

Two months ago, I picked up a bankruptcy creditor as a client. It was my first creditor case, but I thought I knew what I was doing- after all, it's all bankruptcy law. Without getting into boring legal details, my inadequate knowledge of the law led me to do a lot of unnecessary work that doesn't help my client.

The good news it that no malpractice was committed, because I didn't screw anything up for her. She's still in the same fine shape as she was before she hired me.

The bad news is that I look like an idiot, because I told her that I could get a result for her that I couldn't get. Not only do I look like an idiot to her, I look like an idiot to Hoover, who is trusting me to be his bankruptcy expert and has started to pass bankruptcy cases to me. I also look like an idiot to the lawyer who referred this client to Hoover. And if I look like an idiot to the referring attorney, then Hoover looks like an idiot to the referring attorney, which is bad for him.

So tomorrow I need to make calls to both my client and to the referring attorney, explaining my idiocy. That's going to be a fun exercise in self-flagelation. It may not all be self.

I hate screwing up. One of the reasons that I don't want to practice law anymore is that I carry constant anxiety over my cases. Even though I realize in my head that, overall, I'm a good lawyer, and that most people who've worked with me think so also (minus Hoover now), I always have an irrational worry that I'm not doing something right. I lose sleep over upcoming trials. (Even though I rarely lose a trial.) Even though people see me doing well practing law, what they don't see is how constantly miserable I am with anxiety.

So when I actually do mess something up, it kills me. Bankruptcy was the one area over which I've never experienced much anxiety, since generally it's simple and easy. Of all areas of practicing law, bankruptcy work (at least for debtors) is least likely to induce heart attack. Now I have to even worry about bankruptcy cases.

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