Don’t reinvent the wheel

2 mins

This week, some common mistakes of newbie litigation lawyers and what I would do differently if I could start again.

Copious note-taking

One of the bad habits that come with being too diligent at law school is taking copious (and sadly useless) notes.

As a young lawyer, I took way too many notes during client meetings, trials, CPD sessions and so on. The reality is that your notes will be rarely relied on.

It is far more important to listen and absorb what is happening around you.

If you have to take some notes—to show that you were in fact at a meeting and as general good practice—make sure that you only make notes that you’re going to be able to decipher and find useful later.

For trials—get a copy of the transcript. It is going to be far more accurate and useful.


The world of electronic legal research seems to open up boundless plains of case law possibilities. It’s easy to get carried away by the snazzy buttons on LexisNexis.

As a young lawyer, one often forgets that the best source of information comes from existing commentary. Yes, that often means—old school textbooks (or their online version).

Textbooks are not the most technological or exciting sources. However, you can be sure that someone else has thought about your question and written about it in a concise, helpful way. They’re like little breadcrumbs that show the path forward, or where to look next. You can then jump on to LexisNexis to locate more recent judicial pronouncements.

Remember, don’t reinvent the wheel when there is already one lying around.

Standard orders to trial

For lawyers in Victoria—there is no need to reinvent the wheel when drafting your proposed standard orders to trial. This is not just an issue for young lawyers, but also more senior lawyers who seek unusually-crafted proposed orders.

Check out the Victorian Supreme Court Practice Notes which provide helpful guidance. For example, see SC CC1 Commercial Court Practice Note where Schedules 4, 7 and 8 set out the standard orders to trial, including the important mediation orders which parties often leave out at first instance because “the client doesn’t want to mediate”.

See also:

  • Schedule 3 – Matters for Consideration at a Final Directions Hearing
  • Schedule 5 – Standard Reference to Special Referee
  • Schedule 6 – Standard Order for Appointment of an Expert to Assist the Court
  • Schedule 9 – Standard Joint Experts Order.

I hope this means that you won’t make the same mistakes that I did!

Any thoughts on how you would do things differently?

Image credit // Alessandra Caretto