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5 Tips for Avoiding Legal Malpractice Claims

Posted by Joe Barnard, CPA on Nov 29, 2017 4:25:00 PM
Joe Barnard, CPA
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16-5-TipsAs a practicing attorney, you understand the importance of ensuring that you’re serving your clients as effectively as possible. Despite your best efforts, the odds are you’ll face a malpractice claim at some point. A substantial percentage of attorneys are the subject to professional liability claims each year, and the average attorney faces three such claims throughout a legal career.[1]

The good news is there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of legal malpractice claims and resulting losses. Follow these five tips to avoid some of the biggest professional liability pitfalls that can lead to complaints and lawsuits.

 

1. Document all communications.

To be able to serve all your clients with a high level of competence, you must document and preserve all communications with those clients in a way that you can easily access and review. It’s a best practice never to rely on your memory of client meetings or phone conversations; always take careful notes. Likewise, save all email, text, print, and other written communications with clients so you have all the information you’ve collected when you need it. Before you take any action on a client’s behalf, review these materials to ensure you’re not missing or forgetting any important details.

 

2. Get all the relevant facts and details.

When gathering information from clients, be sure to ask clarifying questions until you have a complete understanding of the facts of the case and all aspects of what the client wants. Failure to understand the details of a case or act on a client request can result in substantial damages. Aside from the possibility of an expensive lawsuit, this kind of error can seriously undermine an attorney’s professional reputation, making him or her seem careless and untrustworthy.

 

3. Be meticulous about your calendar.

Missed dates are a large source of professional liability claims, particularly for less experienced attorneys. Get on top of your time commitments by using one or more of the many electronic calendars available and entering important dates such as filing deadlines, depositions, and court dates as soon as they’re known. Set reminders to keep up work on longer projects so deadlines don’t creep up on you.

 

4. Manage your workload carefully.

This can be particularly tricky for new attorneys managing their own practice. Although it can be tempting to say yes to every potential client who walks through your door, be careful not to take on more than you can handle. When you do take a new client, plan tasks into your calendar with attention to what is urgent, what can wait, and what needs consistent work or periodic check-ins. Finally, delegate tasks as appropriate. When you’re opening your own practice, you may be inclined to do it all on your own to minimize startup costs, but making the mistake of accepting more responsibility than you can effectively manage could doom your new practice to a quick demise.

 

5. Carry legal malpractice insurance.

There is no question that E&O insurance comes in handy if you’re sued for malpractice, but it could also help you avoid suits in the first place. It’s important to notify your insurer as soon as you have reason to believe a claim may arise. This not only protects your rights to coverage but also gets a team of experts on your side from the very beginning. The right professional liability insurer will help you understand how best to initially respond to a claim or complaint, which, in some cases, can help you to avoid an eventual lawsuit.

 

ProDefender’s lawyers professional liability insurance provides protection against lawsuits, professional complaints, data breach expenses, earnings loss, and more. Questions? Contact us at (866) 434-8557 or info@prodefender.com.

 

Lawyers Professional Liability

 

[1] Byrne, Josh J.T. "The Prevalence of Legal Malpractice Claims." The Legal Intelligencer. ALM Media Properties LLC, 27 Sept. 2016. Accessed 25 Oct 2017.

Topics: Lawyers Professional Liability, Risk Management


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