In hiring you as their attorney, your clients put a great deal of trust in you. They may trust you to protect their assets, their safety, their civil rights, or their liberty. As a result, you have a great responsibility to each of them.
Maintaining appropriate risk management practices helps you protect your clients from unnecessary losses while protecting you and your firm from resulting malpractice liability.
Use the following checklist to make it easier to provide excellent service to your clients and reduce your risk of professional liability claims.
Ensure each new client’s case falls within one of your areas of expertise.
Although a hungry new lawyer may be tempted to take on any client who comes his or her way, this can pose a grave risk to the future of your practice. While you will have to learn some aspects of the law as you go, you should identify a primary area of focus early on and avoid taking cases that lie well outside of it.
This will make your professional learning much more effective because you will be able to apply more of what you learn to more of the cases that you take. No one can master every area of the law, and trying to do so as you practice would be a disservice to your clients.
Ensure you have the time to take on each new client.
Even if you have the expertise to handle a case, it’s vital to make sure you also have the time you need to devote to it. An overly packed schedule makes it much easier to make mistakes. An extra paycheck isn’t worth the damage to your reputation (and your bank account) that errors in your practice can cause.
Understand and keep up to date on ethics rules that apply to you.
Every attorney is expected to have a full understanding of applicable ethics rules. If you are unclear about the rules that apply to you, an ethics course to fill in the gaps may be the ideal choice for your next CLE class. If you’re ever unsure of your ethical obligations, consult with an attorney who specializes in professional responsibility to clarify them.
Maintain a reliable system for identifying possible conflicts of interest.
Today’s technology can make it much easier to comply with your professional responsibilities than in the past. A variety of software is available for attorneys that will automate the process of checking for conflicts of interest. Whichever product you choose, make sure you understand how to use it effectively.
Use a reliable electronic calendar.
Automated calendars are another piece of modern brilliance that can make your life much more organized. Missed deadlines can be catastrophic—for you and your clients alike. Choose an electronic calendar that is intuitive for you to use, and use it without fail. Set reminders that give you appropriate amounts of time to complete tasks, pacing your work so you can put your energy where and when it’s needed most.
Use engagement letters and other formal communications with clients.
It is important to be unmistakably clear with your clients about the terms and conditions of your relationship. At minimum, an engagement letter should clearly identify the client, scope of representation, fee structure, and payment schedules.
See this article on Law.com for more information about engagement letters. It’s also a good idea to use non-engagement and disengagement letters to make it clear when you decline to represent a client and when representation ends.
Implement cyber security measures.
Hackers are becoming more sophisticated at accessing private digital information of all kinds, and small businesses are far from immune. Stay up to date on current recommendations for cyber security, and invest in cyber liability insurance.
A cyber insurance policy can help ensure that you remain in compliance with all applicable cyber security laws as well as protect you from losses that can result from data breach.
Have a thorough understanding of your professional liability policy.
Thorough knowledge of your professional liability insurance policy is a key part of managing your professional liability risk. Be sure you fully understand what is and is not covered by your policy, including coverage period and limits, areas of practice, and any pro bono, of counsel, or contract work that you may do.
It’s important to review your policy periodically to make sure it’s a good fit as your practice grows and changes.
The legal malpractice insurance professionals at ProDefender can help you assess your risk management practices and select a policy that provides appropriate professional liability protection for your firm. Give us a call at (866) 434-8557, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.