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The most common kinds of legal malpractice in the U.S.

In 2010, the American Bar Association (ABA) published an important reference document that remains relevant to anyone currently in need of legal representation. The document charts the most common kinds of legal malpractice claims filed in U.S. courts. This critical data was compiled after experts referenced studies on legal malpractice claims prepared by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability. Though the data is a few years old, attorneys continue to make similar legal malpractice errors today. As a result, it is important for anyone seeking legal representation to be on the lookout for the most common kinds of errors identified by the ABA.

Topping the list are claims related to an attorney’s failure to know and/or apply the law correctly. This kind of legal malpractice claim makes up just over 11 percent of all legal malpractice cases studied. The law is complex and ever-evolving. As a result, it is critical that attorneys either ensure that their research and understanding of the law is up-to-date or that they consult resources designed to help ensure an accurate and current understanding of the law.

Next on the list of most frequent legal malpractice claims are planning errors, inadequate discovery and failure to file documents. Each of these kinds of claims make up over eight percent of all legal malpractice claims filed. Together, roughly a quarter of all legal malpractice claims studied fall into one of these three categories. Ensuring that you have open communication with your attorney may help you avoid situations in which documents do not get filed, important pieces of information remain hidden and attorneys stray from the task in front of them.

Source: American Bar Association, “The Most Common Legal Malpractice Claims by Type of Alleged Error,” Dan Pinnington, July, 2010

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