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Lessons from the field: embrace your mistakes

Lessons from the field: embrace your mistakes

Mitchell Thorp Baker & McKenzie

Owning up to your mistakes and learning from them are key to getting ahead as a young lawyer.

Lawyers Weekly asked previous winners of the prestigious 30 under 30 awards about the most important lessons they had learned in their career so far.

Mitchell Thorp (pictured) from Baker & Mckenzie, who won in the banking and finance category, urged lawyers to see errors as an opportunity for growth.

“Every mistake is capable of being fixed – just with varying degrees of difficulty – so don’t be afraid of making mistakes,” he said.

“It’s often said that mistakes present the best opportunity to learn [...] so embrace them when they happen so that you don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Energy and resources winner Eugene McAuley from McCarthy Durie Lawyers suggested that while nobody could avoid mistakes completely, it was vital to respond with integrity.

“Inevitably, the lashing you will get for a mistake is far less than the lashing you will get if you try to cover it up,” he said.

“More often than not, you will find that your clients will be understanding and will appreciate your honesty.”

At the same time, he encouraged junior lawyers not to under-estimate their own knowledge. In his experience, lawyers entering the profession may be surprised at how much expertise they have to offer.

“You might be entering the profession feeling like you've not yet been born yet and, mostly, you’ll be right,” he said. 

“But the years and years of study and academia will have, theoretically, equipped you with what you need to know. You will find that, quite remarkably, almost all of it has some real-world application – a fact which I was blissfully unaware of in my law school days.”

Mr Thorp, on the other hand, advised young lawyers to ask plenty of questions, particularly around the context of all their work.

"Nobody expects you to know everything – or anything – as a graduate lawyer, so make sure that when you’re given a task, you have a good understanding of what the issues are, and why those issues have arisen in the first place," he said.

"Context is everything. Whether you’re preparing a detailed, research memo or completing a thoroughly unexciting document review, you need to understand why it is you've been asked to do the work in the first place and have a grasp of the bigger picture."

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