I’m not sure when I first thought I should be using checklists as a lawyer. I know it wasn’t immediately after reading the Checklist Manifesto. At the time, it was just another neat book, like another Malcolm Gladwell yarn. Interesting, but not actionable.

Reflecting on it now, I think what made me want to create checklists was the frustration I experienced whenever I did something for the second or third time but was not much better at it.

It’s a serious problem for many lawyers, I bet. There are so many little skills built into the kinds of larger tasks that lawyers do that there is little opportunity for repetition. If you’re lucky, a mentor can help squeeze more learning out of each experience. But even then, deliberate practice is rare except for, maybe, those who can afford mock juries and the like.

I don’t think that we can practice most legal skills the same way a baseball player practices hitting curveballs. For example, I doubt copying a few dozen NDAs will make me significantly more helpful to clients.

So then what? You might be thinking, “Just take notes, dummy.”

But I’ve had problems with notes and outlines. They can get unwieldy and long. Sometimes I forget to look at them. In the past I’ve had trouble deciding what belongs in them and what doesn’t.

I think having a checklist and a checklist use process addresses many of these issues. Whether it really does is something that only time will tell! Check back and we’ll find out.


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