475 points

“It’s complementary, not complementary, Olga. There’s a big difference!” Read the email I received from the first partner.

He included links to Webster’s dictionary and grammar article. Three other partners and two senior aides came in, and I was inundated with the cheap jokes for a few days. I have had the pleasure of copying many of these emails.

My mistake? I found the case law winning, garnered widespread praise for my research, and quickly responded to my device with great enthusiasm: “Thank you! I appreciate this supplement.”

After I read the partner’s response, I wanted to send him screenshots of a few other Webster entries, which are “pedantic” and “meticulous”, but, since I was a first-year colleague, I decided that might not be the smarter idea. Having said that, it hasn’t changed my opinion of lawyers’ obsession with perfection.

Who cares about coma and love !?


I think, in some cases, it is is being Important, but I don’t see a need to put perfection on a pedestal. If you think you have been considered a “truth judge,” then you are – paradoxically – living a lie. My nouns may not be completely professional or correct, but if people can choose their pronouns, I should be allowed to choose regular nouns (my name might be less confusing).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with exploring pronouns, but as most people who study communication and linguistics will tell you: The basic line of communication is not its grammar, but its message. As long as the other person clearly understands what you were trying to say, you have successfully communicated!

So far, I’ve been talking about communication outside of a professional context. If your contracts are full of typos, this is a bad image of yourself and the company you work for. But in a situation like mine, I see no imperative to perfection.

Perfect as a spelling. Sometimes it is a good idea to get close enough. I think lawyers have a slightly unhealthy obsession with no errors. Nobody is perfect, so why put a facade? Why do we pretend? In some cases, I would argue that demonstrating your capacity for human error by making mistakes helps you and others. It relieves stress while making you more connected and loving. Everyone makes mistakes, and in a healthy environment, people will be more comfortable with you because they see that you are also imperfect, and no different than them.

But finally, and perhaps most importantly:

Perfection is not my virtue, it is the essence of what I do and say measures my value!

The essence of the matter does not have to be linguistic, but exhaustive. Content weight, search depth, suggestion power – all of these writing factors are much more appropriate than if there are any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors here and there. As a lawyer, I have studied a lot and gained a lot of skills. After all, it is a competitive industry, and it is expected to deliver high-quality results. Lawyers offer high value, while editing and auditing is relatively low value compared to the material itself. Not only that, but it can be automated using the likes of spelling or grammar check.

I’d rather spoil an English condition than it would be legal. If I spend time worrying about perfection, I won’t always achieve enough. It’s hard to focus on the bigger picture when you have to examine everything through the eyepiece.

Do not pretend to be smooth or bow to worship at its base. Embrace imperfection but present the essence. Perhaps the worst trade-off is sacrificing functionality for appearance.

Olga V Mac is CEO of Parley Bro, The next-generation contract management company that pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and has dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will appear stronger, more flexible and inclusive than before through the adoption of technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup consultant, public speaker, assistant professor, and entrepreneur who founded Women work on boards She is the author of a movement that advocates for women’s participation on the boards of directors of the Fortune 500 companies Get on the plane: Win your ticket to a corporate board seat And the Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.

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475 points


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