It’s a lawyer’s worst nightmare: a client has filed a malpractice claim against them. The first question the attorney will probably ask is, “What did I do wrong?” But it’s highly unlikely that the claim has something to do with the lawyer’s lack of skill or technical ability. Rather, poor practice management is the likely culprit. The claim could have potentially been avoided if a few simple steps had been taken to ensure that the firm’s day-to-day operations run as efficiently as possible.
Many lawyers are not the best at managing their time, and procrastination runs rampant in the profession. But procrastination can lead to missed deadlines or the failure to file documents in a timely manner, which in turn could prompt a disgruntled client to file a legal malpractice claim. Instead of trying to manage your time, try to manage your activities, keeping in mind that there are only a limited number of things you can do each day, so if you take a new case, you’ll need to find a way to fit it in to your schedule without sacrificing your overall work quality.
Conflicts of Interest
Another sign of poor practice management is not having a system in place to detect potential conflicts of interest. Some common conflicts of interest that might lead to a legal malpractice claim include:
- Simultaneous representation of a man and a woman in divorce proceedings.
- Concurrent representation of two businesses that are suing each other.
- Representation of one client whose interests conflict with those of another client.
- When the private interests of an attorney conflict with his professional interests.
- When a lawyer has a direct or indirect financial interest in the outcome of a case.
The most common reason that malpractice lawsuits are filed and complaints are made to the disciplinary board is quite simple: lack of communication. If you employ poor practice management skills such as routinely ignoring a client’s calls, requests, demands, or desires, you’re playing with fire, particularly if your lack of communication results in a poor case result. Since lawyers are essentially in the communication business, there is really no good reason not to communicate with a client. It’s unethical and might just lead to a malpractice complaint – your worst nightmare.
If you’re interested in improving your practice management skills to lower your risk for legal malpractice claims, contact USI Affinity today.