Corporate and securities law. Business transactions. Trusts and estates. These areas of legal practice have been the top-three subjects of malpractice claims filed with professional negligence insurers for the past three years.
Insurance defense. Taxation. Immigration. Numbers of these kinds of claims have been rising and are of concern.
Ames & Gough 13th annual survey of lawyers’ professional liability claims
Insurance brokerage firm Ames & Gough mined these and other statistics from its 2022 survey of attorney malpractice claims filed with 10 major insurers. In a 2023 news release, the firm explained that while the annual number of claims is relatively stable, the cost and severity of claims are on the rise – as are the numbers of claims paid out at rates over $50 million.
(The news release at the above link provides direction on how to obtain a complimentary copy of the 2022 survey results.)
Some of the reasons and risks cited for this trend are:
- Inflation and other economic forces
- Lawyer migration among law firms (with each move bringing a list of potential future conflicts of interest with clients at their new firms)
- “Aggressive tactics” used by plaintiffs’ attorneys
- Extra accumulation of cases from COVID-19 times
- Increasing complication and intricacy of certain areas of legal practice like tax and immigration
Ames & Gough suggests that lawyers follow best practices to prevent legal negligence:
- Create clear records of client communications.
- Keep all confidential information private.
- Clarify from the beginning of representation involving family issues specifically who the client is.
- Do not take on a new area of practice if the law is complex and specialized without bringing in lawyers competent in the specific type of practice or careful professional education, especially if making a mistake would greatly harm a client, such as a deportation in an immigration case.
The top two kinds of legal malpractice named were conflicts of interest and attorneys without enough knowledge of area of law in which they practice. Any client for whom this rings a bell about previous representation or anyone who feels like a prior lawyer may have made mistakes or failed to adhere to their duty of care to a client, and the client suffered harm as a result, should seek advice from an experienced legal malpractice attorney.