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The Fearsome Foresome of Malpractice Pitfalls

December 28, 2009 By: Reid Category: Ethics & Professionalism

The ABA Journal just published an insightful article on what malpractice claims experts commonly refer to as the “Fearsome Foresome” of practice areas–plaintiffs personal injury; real estate; family law; and estate, trust and probate. One of the experts quoted in the article is Busy Lawyer author, Dan Pinnington.

A notable aspect of that pattern is that, regardless of size, “all firms seem to make the same types of errors,” said Daniel Pinnington, a speaker at the ABA National Legal Malpractice Conference in September. “People make mistakes and systems break down, in the same ways regardless of firm size.”

The article highlights an emerging trend that should be sobering to all lawyers: As the economy has worsened, plaintiffs are trying new and unique theories to sue lawyers for malpractice.  We need to be more vigilant than ever to make sure the quality of our work and client relationships does not give rise to these new novel theories. The good news, according to the article, is that

[E]ven with clients becoming increasingly hungry for recoveries against their lawyers when cases don’t turn out their way, many claims can be avoided. Pinnington said 10 years of data for claims handled by his company for lawyers in Ontario indicates that, overall, errors in communication with clients are the leading cause of malpractice claims—followed by missed deadlines and procrastination, followed by inadequate discovery or investigations of fact (AKA not digging deep enough to make sure key issues for client are recognized and dealt with) .

There is no coincidence that many of the tips in The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice are aimed at better client communication, improving workflow management, and malpractice avoidance techniques. The goal of our book is to make sure lawyers not only stay out of trouble, but have more effective, efficient, and profitable practices.

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