Facing Legal Malpractice Claims: Proactive Measures for Lawyers

Our July Legal Malpractice Awareness Month would not be complete without some discussion about legal malpractice claims. I get asked a lot about claims and if there are really a lot of lawyers who get sued for legal malpractice. I always answer the same way: yes, there are a lot of claims filed against lawyers.

I recently had a discussion with a legal malpractice claims analyst, and he commented that the insured’s question or concerns today should not be “if I get sued, but rather “when I get sued and how many times.” I think that sums it up: lawyers being sued is not uncommon, and it does happen with frequency.

I believe that the reason most people don’t hear about lawyers being sued that often is that most lawyers don’t want to talk about it. It is not a pleasant experience to have your work questioned or accused of making a costly mistake. I understand that.

If you do find yourself in the position where someone is alleging that you made a mistake on their case or you find on your own that you made a mistake, don’t make it worse by ignoring it or hoping it goes away. It never does, and refusing to acknowledge it will only make it worse.

There is no scarlet letter, no stoning, and no public humiliation for reporting a claim. Chances are, several of your colleagues have gone through the same thing. Call your carrier, the hot line, or your broker. Get the issue reported immediately so you can get the right people involved early on. You will be glad that you did.

What Are Reasonable Policy Limits and Deductibles For My Coverage?

One of the harder questions that lawyers face when purchasing or renewing a legal malpractice insurance policy is: what policy limits and policy deductibles should I choose, and are those limits sufficient? 

No one wants to buy more coverage than they need or have a deductible that never gets satisfied. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a stock answer. Since every law firm is different, the policy limits and deductible chosen should be based on the individual characteristics of the firm. Never choose limits and deductibles based on what your friend or the law firm down the street has. Take some time to consider the matter. No one knows your practice any better than you do. 

Consider the type of law or cases your firm handles. What is the value of the cases you handle? What is the largest case value that you handle? What is the smallest? Is there an “average” value? How many lawyers are in your firm? What is the economy like? Lawyers seem to get sued more often in a bad economy than in a good one. These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding on your limits and deductible. 

Once you have gathered the relevant information and thought about it, you’ll be in a much better position to decide, and I think you’ll find the decision becomes a little easier. Not easy, but a little easier.

What Makes A “Good” Lawyers Legal Malpractice Insurance Program?

You as lawyers have several choices when it comes to legal malpractice insurance.  My guess is all brokers selling this type of coverage will tell you that their policy or program is a good one.  But what exactly makes up a good program? 

Let me tell you what I think makes up a good program and distinguishes it from other insurance program or policies in the marketplace:

 1. A malpractice helpline or hotline for insureds.  This is important as it provides an outlet for the insureds to discuss the disciplinary or claim issue with one of their colleagues.

2. A library of risk management tools.  For example, sample copies of engagement letters, disengagement letters, samples of conflicts of interest checks and examples of docket control systems.  This can be web site based or hard copies

3. Risk Management classes and or videos that may or may not provide CLE credit

4. Comprehensive policy form that provides: full prior acts coverage, career coverage, broad definition of professional services, unlimited tail coverage endorsement and a free retirement tail when appropriate.  

5. An involved and experienced broker. Does your broker look like me, act like me, talk like me?  If not they should.  A broker is your connection to the carrier.  Likewise the broker is the carrier’s connection to you.  Education, dedication and commitment is a must. LPL is not a one size fits all, not even a one carrier fits all kind of product.

When searching for or reviewing your legal malpractice insurance program, you may not be able to secure everything I just mentioned but a good program will have most of them.

The Importance of Legal Malpractice Insurance

Well, welcome to July! Hard to believe July is already here. We at INtegrity First Corportation
recognize/celebrate the month of July as Legal Malpractice Insurance Awareness month.
Similar to September being Life Insurance Awareness Month and October being Cyber
Insurance Awareness Month. And what better way to kick off the month than a short
discussion on why malpractice insurance is so important. This fourth of July as we celebrate this
great nation of ours don’t be red white and blue. Be red white and insured or covered.

I personally believe that there is no better way for lawyers to protect themselves, their
practices and perhaps more importantly their clients! Everyone makes mistakes and lawyers
are not excluded from this fact. Some mistakes are small and insignificant and can be resolved
by the lawyer. Other mistakes however are more severe. They can cause harm to the client,
and affect the reputation of the lawyer. These claims/mistakes requires special expertise, legal
defense counsel and significant resources to resolve. This is where your legal malpractice
insurance coverage/program pays huge dividends.

Your coverage will provide the guidance and assistance throughout the process, provide for
defense counsel and settlement funds if needed. It also provides for a vigorous defense of you
protecting your reputation from those annoying frivolous claims that often times get filed
against you.

A good lawyers professional liability policy is worth its weight in gold! Make sure you have one!

Enter to win two FREE Steelers Tickets!

As we at Integrity First Corporation celebrate the month of July as lawyers legal malpractice insurance Awareness Month, we are honoring you, the lawyer, and offering you a chance to win two free Steelers tickets to an upcoming game during the 2023 2024 season.