Early in my career, I received the well-intentioned advice to be mindful of typographical errors. As my colleague stated, if a client is paying tens of thousands of dollars for a brief, it better be perfect with every comma in the right place. Emails, I was told, were a reflection of my ability to pay attention to detail. I became obsessed with checking my emails for mistakes, sometimes reading a three-sentence email up to five or six times. Soon, I realized my habits were actually crippling my efficiency, and that while I should work to the best of my ability, I could not realistically expect myself to be completely error-free.
Perfection is an impossible standard. Yet, it is the standard by which many attorneys measure their professional success—or worse, personal worth. Perfectionism is a common thread in incidents that highlight the importance of mental health in attorneys, including the recent suicide of a Sidley Austin partner or the heroin overdose of a Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati partner.
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