Lawyers make a living by representing their clients in all sorts of legal matters, including legal defense. How ironic is it when you, as an attorney, need legal representation of your own because you’re being sued by one of your clients due to an alleged error? It happens more and more these days; in fact, one study found that more than 40 percent of lawsuits brought against attorneys and their firms these days are claiming administration error as well as client relations issues. Of course, professional liability insurance for lawyers is a must—but in addition to that, no matter how heavy your case load, take time to ensure you’re following some of the basic preventive behavior that will help protect yourself in the event of a lawsuit:
Documentation. All communications with clients, in particular instructions and decisions they make, as well as advice or instructions you provide that impact outcomes or address critical issues, should be documented in writing. This means follow-up calls and messages, as well, whether they’re made by you or your support staff.
Centralized calendaring. Another study shows that failing to calendar litigation and non-litigation items is the fifth most common mistake in professional liability snafus. Make sure to maintain a system that reflects the docket and calendar dates and is updated and checked by more than one person to avoid a single-point failure.
Observe good billing practices. Make sure that neither you or your clients have to deal with unpleasant situations due to billing errors on your part, or having to sue clients for unpaid fees which can occur if you continue to provide service when their retainer has been exhausted. Establish clear fee agreements and accounting flags to let clients know when their retainer reserve needs to be replenished.
Mail procedures. Since legal deadlines apply to many documents you send and receive via mail, make sure everyone in the firm follows the same policy on opening, date stamping, and routing mail, with a focus on timeliness.
Keep forms updated. Agreements, contracts, and letters that you use should be updated on an annual basis to correct outdated information.
Consult a professional insurance agent, who can tell you more about professional liability insurance for lawyers and how to construct the best, most comprehensive program to suit your specific needs.