I’ve long argued that lawyers need to develop and follow best practices. Two recent cases show what happens when lawyers allegedly skip steps. 

Failure to File Routine Financial Statements Can Mean Trouble for Law Firms, AmLaw Daily Blog 9 June 2009, describes how two AmLaw 100 firms face challenges for allegedly not taking simple steps concerning UCC filings.

As I read the blog post, the alleged oversights are not about some esoteric and seldom-seen point of law. Rather, they seem to be the types of steps one would always take in similar matters. A bit like the pilot lowering the landing gear before landing? I’ve argued previously that lawyers, like pilots, should have checklists. Perhaps if the lawyers here had operated from checklists, they would not face these challenges.

I’ve also argued in the past that lawyers resist checklists or other systematic approaches because they think of themselves as artists. That view is wrong. Good artists are VERY systematic. I remember a Chuck Close exhibit at the Hirschorn that illustrates how he creates his work – he does not leave things to chance. Indeed, creativity and being systematic are not at odds. Artists may break rules but they know it when they do. And that may be more than one can say about lawyers. So, what explains lawyers’ resistance to systematizing what they do?