Malpractice lawsuits seem to be more and more common. We hear about medical malpractice, legal malpractice, accounting malpractice, and many others. The best policy to prepare yourself in case of a malpractice suit is to obtain a professional liability insurance policy. This will provide certain protections, but there are many other ways to avoid legal malpractice suits. The American Bar Association (ABA) provides several steps to avoiding situations that often lead to clients filing suit. In a previous article, we discussed, in depth how client relations affect malpractice, but now we would like to go over three other tips from the ABA.
- Missing deadlines. Depending on the type of case, there are different deadline for filing a lawsuit and submitting specific information. If a deadline is missed, the whole case could be dismissed or no longer an option if the statute of limitations is exceeded. The best way to protect against this is to have a standard calendar system that includes reminders. It is also wise to add a policy that states each lawsuit must be filed three months before the deadline.
- Stress & Substance Abuse. Sadly, it takes only one attorney with a substance abuse or mental health problem to destroy a firm’s reputation and increase the number of malpractice suits brought against a firm. Due to this, it is vital that your firm understands how to recognize signs up substance abuse and mental health disorders. Stress due to long hours and heavy workloads can lead many to have increased chances of abusing substances or increase chances of suffering from depression. By recognizing the signs of these issues, the firm can provide professional help to those who need it. By providing these services, you can help each attorney at your firm recover and be the best attorney possible.
- Insufficient Client Screening. As an attorney, have you ever had a gut feeling about a client? Did you know that it was a bad idea to take the case? If you have, you understand how important it is to screen potential clients. Before taking on a case, you should ask some basic questions such as:
- Do you have the time to take on a case and give it the attention needed?
- Do you have the experience to handle this case?
- Is the client irrational or confrontational?
- Are you receiving this case at the last minute?
- Has the potential client used several other attorneys before coming to you?
- What are the clients expectations?
If you have asked these questions and feel uncomfortable with the case, do not agree to represent the client.
By using the advice from the ABA, you can avoid many lawsuits. The insurance agents at Paragon Underwriters are here to help you create the best professional liability insurance policy for you. Contact us today for a quote.
If you are interested in profession liability insurance, contact us today!
Each malpractice lawsuit begins with a client who is dissatisfied with an attorney or law firm. This is an obvious statement, as happy clients don’t tend to file lawsuits. Due to this, it is important to look at your client relations and ensure that you and your firm are doing all that is needed to help clients feel satisfied with the work done. According to the American Bar Association, the most common mistakes that lead to legal malpractice lawsuits include, failure to obtain proper client consent, lack of communication regarding case development, and ignoring or not following client instructions.
In order to avoid such mistakes, there are steps that each law office can take. The following steps are recommended by the American Bar Association, and by the staff at Paragon Underwriters.
- Take the time to explain clearly why the firm was hired, the fees associated with the case, reporting/billing processes, and the client obligations. Be sure to sit down and explain all of this orally, and have it written up so there is not confusion.
- Set realistic expectations. Explain the case, processes, and possible outcomes in clear, simple language to encourage realistic client expectations. Do not make promises that cannot be kept, or that only may happen. Be sure to document what you have been doing and what you expect to do for the next step.
- Maintain good client communication. This is perhaps the most important step you can take. Be sure to return all phone calls promptly and keep appointments on time. It is also important to send the client periodic updates about the case. This includes negative information, the reason for a delay, and always, a revised expected completion date based on the new information.
- All staff members should understand the importance of treating clients with respect and courtesy. The staff is the middleman between the client and the attorney, making it important that they treat the clients questions and concerns just as seriously as the attorney would. Be kind, polite, and cheerful.
While there is no way to guarantee that every client will be pleased with your firm, it is important to follow these tips to avoid legal malpractice suits. For those times, when despite your best efforts, a client proceeds with a lawsuit, Paragon Underwriters can ensure that you are protected with the best professional liability insurance policy for you. Call now to receive a quote today!
Whether you just passed the bar and want to strike out on your own or you’re planning to leave behind your old firm, it can be intimidating to start up a law firm on your own. Just because you understand the legal side of starting your own practice, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re confident with the business side of matters. What should an attorney consider when starting up a firm?
Three Important Things a Lawyer Needs to Consider Before Starting a New Firm.
First of all, every business needs a website nowadays – every business. So the first thing you should do after you pick a name for your firm should be to acquire a URL. It should go on your business cards and be prominent in any TV, newspaper, magazine, or radio ads that you run. Be sure that the webpage has a ‘Contact Us’ feature that gives your phone number, email address, and a form to fill out directly. A blog is also a good idea as you can use keywords to attract new clients from web searches.
Another important factor is to select the right office space. You need enough room to operate. You will need a waiting room, a place for a receptionist, room for files, and an office where you can both speak to clients and comfortably spend long working hours. At the same time, you want to keep your overhead low, so don’t bite off more than you can chew space or cost wise. Don’t forget to factor in things like a cleaning service.
This is a no-brainer for lawyers, but obviously you have to protect yourself from lawsuits and so insurance is a must. Whether you refer to it as Legal malpractice insurance, professional liability insurance or E&O insurance, you know what we are talking about. Be sure to shop around and don’t just take the least expensive insurance you can find. Not all legal malpractice policies are created equal. You don’t want to get stuck finding out later on that your professional liability insurance doesn’t cover grievance matters. Also, be sure to check the fine print to see the effect that defense costs have when it comes to malpractice actions. Have a frank conversation with your insurance agent to be sure that you understand fully what you are getting. If you are not sure where to start, this is one area where many colleagues and even competitors will be happy to share what has worked for them.
Obviously, there is a lot to consider when starting your own firm and we have only begun to scratch the surface here. Developing a business plan, acquiring capital, opening a bank account, coming up with a marketing strategy, having business cards made, hiring staff, and more is needed to get the business going right. A website, the right office, and professional liability insurance are just three of the many things that will help you to get off on the right foot.
Written by: Paragon Underwriters, Inc.