You made a big mistake. Now what?

Jun 16, 2024

Let's be clear on one point: every single lawyer has made a significant mistake at some point. While we may not always want to admit it, we all are human.

Most of the time, the mistakes are minor. But sometimes they aren’t.

When you discover that you've made one of these big mistakes, what should you do next?

Here are three tips for dealing with your contract mistakes:

1. Take a breath

Discovering your own mistakes can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. You’ll need to think rationally, and that is hard to do when you are emotional. So, wait until you calm down to evaluate the next steps.

2. Tell someone

After taking that breath (and not much after), tell someone. If you are the junior person on a team, let your manager or team lead know what happened.

The absolute worst thing you can do as a junior attorney is trying to cover it up. Senior members of your team have more experience dealing with these things. They will give you a path forward.

3. Evaluate the impact

If there is no one to tell, evaluate the mistake’s impact and identify your options. If the contract hasn’t been signed, you still have time to change it. Introducing the change may irritate the other side, but it happens. It usually works out fine.

If the mistake is in the signed contract, consider whether it is worth asking for the amendment. Your counterparty may value the relationship over that term and agree to it. If not, try to mitigate and then move on.

What other advice would you give someone who has discovered their own mistake in a deal?

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