Sweating the Small Stuff

You've heard "Don't sweat the small stuff", but that's exactly what lawyers have to do daily.  A misplaced comma or missing "not" can make a sentence mean the opposite of what you intended.  One day makes the difference between filing a complaint that will be heard, and one that is time-barred.  In re Application of Jia, a recent Ohio disciplinary case, reminds lawyers and those who aspire to the bar that details matter.

Lingya Jia was a 2013 law school grad who sat for the 2014 Ohio bar exam.  On the second day, two others taking the exam saw her twice filling in answers after time was called.  Jia may only have completed two more answers than time permitted, and she passed the exam despite the 16.7% penalty that the bar examiners assessed.  The character and fitness board recognized that the stress of the bar exam might account for her denying that she broke the rules. Yet the Supreme Court of Ohio held that Jia's failure to honor the testing deadline demonstrated that she lacked the requisite character, fitness and moral qualifications to become a lawyer at the time of the bar exam.   Jia was disciplined by requiring her to wait two years before reapplying for bar admission.

While Jia will get a "do over" with respect to her bar application, a lawyer cannot count on that opportunity in the practice of law.  The Jia case reminds lawyers to manage their work to comply with deadlines and time constraints, and always to act in a way that merits the trust of clients, courts and others, and the privileges we have as members of the bar.