Any attorney can come under fire for alleged malpractice. However, according to a recent survey conducted by a malpractice insurance broker, those who work in certain practice areas are more likely to face complaints or lawsuits for alleged misconduct than others.
Moreover, the survey found that the severity of claims rose in the last year compared to previous years. Seven of the nine participating insurers indicated paying claims over $50 million or more. With such material consequences on the line, it's worth investigating which practice areas may require a bit more caution from firms when conducting business as usual.
Top five practice areas under fire
Some of these so-called "popular" practice areas for legal malpractice aren't surprising. Others cover new and emerging areas of law where laws or legal precedent may be lacking or minimal, naturally leading to confusion or misunderstandings.
According to survey results, the top five practice areas prone to legal malpractice include:
- General business transactions - When business dealings fall through or start-ups flounder, lawyers often become targets of blame.
- Securities law - Similarly, when major trades, joint ventures or litigation doesn't go as expected, financial leaders start questioning their lawyers' competence in handling this complex area of law.
- Real estate matters - From title issues to financing missteps, real estate transactions and development are ripe for legal error, especially if inexperienced firms seek to take advantage of the current real estate boom.
- Trusts and estate planning - It's easy to blame the messenger, especially in the sensitive and often emotionally-driven time following a loved one's death.
- Cybercrime - While lawmakers are passing legislation to deal with the increasingly complex role the Internet plays in society, regulations are rudimentary at best. Not only that, but the threat of computer hacking and breaches in cybersecurity can lead to claims over the failure to protect client confidentiality.
Survey results aside, any attorney practicing in any field of law can come under scrutiny for purportedly failing to uphold the legal ethics of professional conduct. For those with accusations looming or questions about possible malpractice, an attorney who specifically handles legal malpractice claims can be your best ally in determining how best to navigate the situation before the court and The Florida Bar.