Skip to content

Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

All Thomson Reuters websites use cookies to improve your online experience. They were placed on your computer when you launched this website. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.


5 small lawyer mistakes – that will cost you big

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

Have any of these mistakes happened to you? Avoid these small errors and turn them into big wins

In the practice of law, there are too many things to worry about — too many bases that need to be covered. Because as you know, it doesn’t take a major mishap to derail a case. Any number of small yet critical errors could cost you — and your client — the case. 

Here are some little mistakes that can cost you big – and ways to make sure they don’t happen.

Jump to:

document icon    1. You forgot a word

pennant icon    2. That case is now bad law

bullet list icon    3. You didn’t review your opponent’s work well enough

border icon    4. The ellipses that killed the case

replacing folders icon    5. The deadline was June 1, not July 1

bulb icon    How to avoid these small but costly errors


1. You forgot a word

Short, ordinary little words like “not” can change the entire context of an everyday conversation. “I do want to go dinner with you” is very different than “I do not want to go to dinner with you.” Now imagine what can happen in the legal world when you omit a single, but vital, word. 

Let’s say you’re involved in a securities fraud case under SEC Rule 10b-5. The crux of this claim is that the defendant “made misstatements or omissions of material fact.” What happens when you accidentally drop the word “material”? In this scenario, “material” is key, and it could make or break this claim. Because omissions of fact are very different than omissions of material fact. 

And even if it doesn’t entirely jeopardize your case, imagine the impression you just made with the judge and opposing counsel.

Prevent it from happening in the first place. Your reputation will thank you later. 


2. That case is now bad law

That go-to case. The one that has been there for you through so many pinches. The one you’ve always counted on. Unbeknownst to you, it was recently overruled. So that case that has been a cornerstone for so many of your motions or briefs is now bad law. 

Worse yet, you’ve cited it in your most recent motion. It’s only a matter of time before opposing counsel finds this (because there’s a good chance they already have the legal technology to find your mistakes first), and your case could be over before it even had a chance to begin.

Head shot stressed young woman thinking at work
What opposing counsel knows can hurt you

What do they have that you don’t?

Read blog post


3. You didn’t review your opponent’s work well enough

You read their motion thoroughly. You checked all the cases they used to make sure it was all good law. You did what you always do. And up until recently, that was good enough. 

But now, it’s not. Advances in legal research tech have made your current process an antiquated one. What you couldn’t uncover using traditional research methods was the most relevant law that opposing counsel chose not to include. Was it simply a mistake or oversight? Or did they intentionally exclude it? Had you known this, you may have gleaned some insight into their strategy. 


4. The ellipses that killed the case

It’s common to use ellipses in quotations as a way, essentially, to skip to the good stuff or drop the insignificant stuff. It is most often used simply to shorten a quote. The same goes for ellipses used in briefs and pleadings. 

What happens if ellipses were used incorrectly? Most of the time, this would be a regrettable but benign mistake. Unfortunately, it could also be a strategic attempt to divert attention away from what lies between the dots. 

No matter the origin of the incident, the court won’t be impressed. 


5. The deadline was June 1, not July 1

What some may consider a rookie mistake is actually an easy one for anyone. You’re busy. Your calendar always feels overbooked. When July 2 rolls around and you realize what happened, it’s too late. It’s over. Not only is it bad for the client, but it’s also bad for business. Your reputation is everything. 

Get to the root cause of the miss. Was there miscommunication? An admin error? A technology glitch? No matter how it happened, finding ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again is crucial. 


You can avoid making these small but costly errors 

While some of these mistakes can feel like one-time ordeals, some aren’t. Fortunately, advancements in legal technology can help you avoid many of the most perilous errors. And while this level of detailed review may have once been prohibitively time-consuming, these same tech advancements can make it a standard part of your legal research workflow. 

With the right upgrades, a few clicks, and a couple of minutes, you can bolster your confidence by eliminating the chance that you missed some minor detail that could wreak havoc for your case – and your reputation. 

Abstract blue tech background
Here are four simple ways to improve your legal research process and avoid these costly mistakes.

More answers