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It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Joe (or is it Jo?), the junior attorney on a massive litigation matter, has been instructed by the senior partner to send a letter by fax to certain defense counsel and not to others. As our gender-generic associate gets ready to send the fax, s/he isn’t sure any more who’s on the “receive” list and who’s not. So Jo(e) catches the partner on the way out the door for the weekend and asks again. But the partner impatiently shrugs off the query, eager to beat the worst of the traffic.

“I was afraid they’d think I wasn’t smart enough, but I guess I was still confused,” our associate later confessed. “I knew the letter was important; it was about our defense strategy, and the trial date was coming up. I sent it out, including to one lawyer who wasn’t part of the strategy — actually the lawyer for the defendant we had decided to point the finger at. I don’t need to tell you how the partners reacted when they found out.” Only blaming the errant fax on a temp who’d already left the firm salvaged our associate’s career.

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