This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish.

A story about lawyers and law firms

join the conversation, learn and share


Episode 24 - What to do with a perfectionist

The scene …. Rob’s office at FFS on a Monday morning

Mary was a firm legend.  Now a licensed conveyancer, she had been there over forty years and seen partners come and go.  She had (almost enthusiastically) cancelled holidays to cover for others.  She had hardly (if ever) taken a day off ill.  She had done the boring jobs that no one else wanted to do.  Above all she worked incredibly hard and her standards were exceptional.  She had been described by people inside and outside the firm as “fearsomely thorough”.  She wore the badge of “perfectionist” with pride.  Everyone wondered how they would cope without Mary.

“But maybe now is the time”, wondered Rob to himself and moments later he said it out loud to Hamish and asked, “So tell me again what happened last week?”.  “Ok, but you better check this yourself”, replied Hamish “because I’m not 100% sure and I don’t want to get Mary into trouble ….. but, as I understand it she was meant to be exchanging contracts on three transactions on Friday and none of them happened.  Apparently, this was because she found last minute technical problems on two of them and had a shouting match with the solicitors on the other side on the third which caused it to collapse.  But I don’t know all the details obviously”.

Rob’s head was in his hands.  This wasn’t exactly surprising news, but it was still painful to hear.  “Look Hamish, I do appreciate that but I really would value your take on this ….. based on what you do know.  I’m going to have to take this further and well ….. what do you think?”  Hamish looked intensely thoughtful and spoke very slowly “Well, knowing Mary, she may well have been right on the technical issues.  One of them was something about the possibility of a right of way, although apparently the building society involved was ok about going ahead.  Not sure about the other technical one. And the problem with the other side - all I know is that at some stage she apparently said something like, “I’m amazed you ever managed to get qualified, you wouldn’t in my day … your attitude is slovenly and your whole approach is more like that of an estate agent” ….. or something like that”.  Hamish paused.

Rob’s head went a little deeper into his hands.


Have your say

What should Rob do (assuming he does some investigating and finds out that there was a 1% chance of a problem with the right of way)?

Episode 24 - What to do with a perfectionist POLL

No answer selected. Please try again.
Please select either existing option or enter your own, however not both.
Please select minimum 0 answer(s) and maximum 3 answer(s).
[{"id":"99","title":"Commend Mary for upholding the highest possible standards and not putting the firm\u2019s indemnity insurance at risk","votes":"3","type":"x","order":"1","pct":30,"resources":[]},{"id":"100","title":"Remind her firmly that the firm is a 21st century business and that the words on the firm website are \u201cWe provide solutions\u201d","votes":"1","type":"x","order":"2","pct":10,"resources":[]},{"id":"101","title":"Something else","votes":"6","type":"x","order":"3","pct":60,"resources":[]}] ["#ff5b00","#4ac0f2","#b80028","#eef66c","#60bb22","#b96a9a","#62c2cc"] ["rgba(255,91,0,0.7)","rgba(74,192,242,0.7)","rgba(184,0,40,0.7)","rgba(238,246,108,0.7)","rgba(96,187,34,0.7)","rgba(185,106,154,0.7)","rgba(98,194,204,0.7)"] 350
bottom 200


Add a comment ….. many of us will have come across the well-meaning perfectionist, have you?  How do we deal with them and use their strengths?  What else could Rob do?

Add your name and any contact details to your comment if you want.  Otherwise it will be anonymous.


# Mac Mackay 2018-03-05 11:03
I did some consultancy work for a conveyancing department of a regional firm and they wanted to improve the workflow across the department and invest in a better case management system. They had a 'Mary'. She had her own room down the corridor, worked 60 or more hours a week (most weekends) and was no more likely to change than night follows day. Naturally a blend of option 1 and 2 would be preferred - as we did with this situation. We instituted new ways of working in the firm, put prices up (10%) ahead of the 'high street' and left 'Mary' where she was 'outside the loop'. (I had some informal chats with her. Got her to focus on her beloved golf. Her handicap reduced - nothing to do with me - and she took early retirement)! Phew.

Please sign in/register to post a comment