Friday 1 May 2015

The Seventh Egg - A cautionary tale

Many years ago, in the halcyon days when I spent summers in Europe on full pay, I invited an American friend for a meal in my Geneva studio.  As the cooking facilities were limited to a hotplate, the centrepiece was to be a Western omelette with seven or eight eggs.  Now, my mother - mothers know best - always broke eggs separately.  I had abandoned that habit along with drying dishes, saving time by breaking eggs into the same dish, frypan, or whatever.  

I did so on this occasion, but the seventh egg was rotten.  I had to throw the lot out.  I then found that I was out of eggs.  I don't recall what we ate, but it was a valuable learning experience.  All these years later, I still check my eggs by breaking them separately.

But what does this have to do with the practice of law?  I am fussy about formatting.  I like a page to look right.  But recently I had cause to look at a document that I had already filed, and found that in two justified paragraphs three or four words had been spread out right across the last line.  It looked sloppy.

Unlike the omelette,  it had been filed and it was too late to throw it out, notwithstanding the seventh egg.  But I had failed to check with sufficient care.  There are many seventh eggs: the typos that spell check has not picked up, and that smell as bad as that seventh egg; the incorrect citation; there are plenty of them.  Time spent checking for them is time well spent.  They can then be thrown out before spoiling the omelette.

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