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When Lawyers Mess Up: Current Malpractice Trends

Shutterstock_176282705According to the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability, between 2008 and 2011 the top areas of practice generating malpractice lawsuits were, in order of frequency:

  • Real estate
  • Personal injury
  • Family law
  • Estate, trust, and probate law
  • Collection and bankruptcy

This may be seen as a deviation from a longstanding trend in which lawyers who practiced personal injury law were the most likely to generate the most malpractice suits filed against them on an annual basis. The findings may be due to data limitations and the fact that the analysis is not adjusted for the number of total practitioners in each practice area, the committee cautioned.

New Exposure Areas Faced by Firms

Continued fallout from the financial crisis and the growing complexity of electronic discovery are just two of the new areas of exposure to liability for law firms. But an increase in legal malpractice litigation may be a sign that major law firms are willing to stand their ground rather than bow out early through face-saving settlement agreements.

There appears to be a growing trend that attorneys are now less likely to settle claims early on, before a claim is filed that could potentially stigmatize the firm.  According to a Law 360 report, there has been a rapid rise in the media coverage of suits against law firms and attorneys, and it is becoming clearer and clearer to firms that malpractice suits do not necessarily result in a tarnished reputation.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Professional Liability is planning to issue its next edition examining the profiles of legal malpractice claims in September 2016. For more information about legal malpractice trends and how to protect your practice, contact USI Affinity today.


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