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Ineptitude, forgetting a step, assails in-house lawyers, maybe more than inability or ignorance – use checklists!

“Increasingly, professional errors – across fields and disciplines – stem not from lack of ability or ignorance, but from ineptitude: situations in which ‘the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly.’” In-house counsel should heed this observation, and its follow-on recommendation: use checklists.

Checklists have a “forcing function” that pushes uses to follow the minimum steps in a process. The degree of determination can be like a recipe, in that you follow the steps, or like a picture for a jigsaw puzzle where you can complete the process however you like but you need confirmation of its sufficiency. Checklists can also encourage “pause points” where the lawyer ought to stop and check with other lawyers or clients.

The quote and ideas about two basic functions of checklists comes from Legal Comm. & Rhetoric, Fall 2011 at 96, which quotes from Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metro Bks. 2009) at 8. As to checklists more generally (See my post of Jan. 26, 2010: checklists with 9 references.).

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