3 Reasons Lawyers Get Sued
Lawyers often give off the impression of being flawless. But lawyers are people too, and people make silly mistakes -- even reckless ones. One really big mistake can even jeopardize your license or cause you to be sued.
Keep an eye out for some of the most common reasons lawyers find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit:
1. Negligence in Handling a Matter
As soon as you passed the bar exam, your jurisdiction's bar examiners made the determination that you were competent to practice law there. Most people owe the would-be plaintiff a duty of "ordinary care." Once you became an attorney, your duty just ratcheted up to attorney "standard of practice." You're not expected to be Superman, but you must diligently and competently handle your client's matter.
2. Breach of ConfidencesThis one is insidious. It's almost taken for granted within the profession that attorneys will talk about client cases with other attorneys and professionals. Lawyers will often protect protect confidences by switching names and facts just enough to obscure the true identity of clients. But every so often, an attorney will slip up and reveal something a client relayed to the lawyer in confidence. The whole point of confidentiality is to encourage clients to reveal critical information so the lawyer can help them. Lawyers should seek permission from the client to discuss matters with other attorneys for matter assistance via a consent provision in their fee agreement.
3. "Regular" Reasons
Lawyers make regular mistakes. No one is perfect and being a lawyer is not a job known for lowering stress. One day, an attorney might fly off the handle and assault his client during a routine get-together to discuss the case. Instant lawsuit. This one arguably doesn't even really fall into the conventional reasons that lawyers get sued: more like reasons that people get sued. Mishandling client funds, either negligently or intentionally, is also another big one.
Of these three reasons for getting sued, your main focus should definitely be the first: negligence. Negligence in handling a matter can roughly be broken down to "not knowing the law" and "clerical" mistakes. If you simply do your homework and keep your schedules organized, you can significantly reduce the number of ways you open yourself to an unwelcome lawsuit.
Oh, and get malpractice insurance!
- Top Ten Malpractice Traps and How to Avoid Them (American Bar Assoc.)
- Do Your Clients Think You're Incompetent? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- 3 Legal Issues for Cutting and Pasting (FindLaw's Strategist)
- FindLaw's Guide to Malpractice Insurance ... Just Because (FindLaw's Strategist)
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