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August 01, 2005

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YGB

One half of a coping mechanism to avoid the "I don't know" is to say, "I check that." As a young associate, it often helps to have a pad and pen when "standing around," and industriously scribble down notes of these tasks -- it makes you look attentive. And if you have a good idea but aren't sure, you could say "You know, I think _____, but I'll check that and get back to you." The other half of the coping mechanism is to follow-up immediately and thoroughly. One cottolary -- never cite a case as support for a proposition unless you have made sure it's good law. It is good practice in large firms to attach the cite search results to the case to show you have exercised due care and to CYA.
The inability to tactfully say "I don't know" doesn't end with early associateship -- recently on a case i know, the lead counsel made what could well be taken as a misrepresentation to the judge about the availability of some information the judge himself had suggested as relevant. A nice letter to opposing counsel (we just asked if the information that had been found was some of the material he said to the Court did not exist) that helped him conclude that if discovery relating to this information could not be resolved the judge would likely want to have the whole sordid story of his "representations" to the Court recited was enough to get a nice rapid response and resolution.

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