From clear communication to proper documentation, there are many ways you can prevent malpractice claims and subsequent loss at your firm. Follow these loss prevention tips for attorneys to protect your firm.
- Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Allegations of conflict of interest drive both frequency and severity. Watch carefully for conflicts arising from dealings with former or current clients and avoid those arising from your own interests in a client’s business.
- Properly Screen Potential Clients
Ever heard a fellow attorney say “I just knew that client would be trouble.”? Never ignore your gut feelings about a prospective client and always follow your firm’s client screening questionnaire before beginning a partnership.
Working with Clients
- Don’t Get Caught in the “Time Trap”
Failure to file timely is one of the most frequent wrongful acts alleged against lawyers. Avoid these claims by always maintaining an effective docket or calendar system. It should be used by all employees and encompass all critical dates.
- Communicate Clearly
Developing a rapport with clients can reduce the likelihood of a simple error becoming a claim for malpractice. By focusing on the non-technical aspects of the practice of law, you can reduce the risk of malpractice claims.
- Know the Law and Apply it Properly
Improper advice and strategy, improper research and other errors can lead to malpractice claims. Don’t accept cases outside your area of expertise. Stay on top of emerging industry issues through continuing your legal education, law journals, advance sheets and more.
- Don’t Ignore Third Party Risk
Third parties, both individual and corporate, typically file malpractice claims in the form of malicious prosecution or abuse of process. Many of these actions can be avoided if the attorney conducts an adequate investigation before naming parties in a suit.
- Avoid Needless Fee Disputes
From the start, your clients should understand the hourly rates they will be charged, potential expenses that will be passed on to them and the billing schedule. If you have to sue for fees, there is always a substantial risk of a counter claim for malpractice.
Good file management is critical to avoiding malpractice claims due to poor attorney/client relations.
- Focus on the Workplace
Like any business, a law firm is susceptible to a damaged reputation caused by poor employee morale, work/life balance issues or erratic behavior by staff or attorneys. Oversight of associates and support staff is critical. Watch for signs of excessive stress, alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness or lapses in concentration.
- Don’t Assume You Won’t Get Sued
Malpractice claims can happen to any practicing attorney. Reduce your risk by taking advantage of Loss Prevention opportunities provided by your local or state bar associations. Always have Professional Liability Insurance to help cover the cost of certain legal fees, and judgments/settlements that you may face as a result of claims and litigation brought against you.
For more loss prevention tips for attorneys, contact Lockton Affinity.