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Poll results: legal malpractice a steady, material concern

Are legal malpractice claims on the wane?

Uh, no.

In fact, and as reported in a media article discussing findings issued by insurance broker and risk-consulting company Ames & Gough, "most leading legal malpractice insurers continue to see a steady flow of new claims."

That reality is of course immediately and deeply relevant for any law firm client, whether an individual or business entity. It is a reasonable -- and a given -- expectation that retained legal counsel will act with due diligence and competence in every client matter, with the client's best interests being of paramount importance.

Unfortunately, the reasonable and ethical performance expected in every client matter is far from being universally realized in the legal realm. As noted in the Ames & Gough study (which polled nine leading insurers providing malpractice coverage to many top law firms across the country), malpractice claims continue to be a readily apparent reality across the industry.

Here are a few salient points derived from the polling:

  • Many malpractice claims in 2014 were deemed egregious enough to warrant insurers' payments in the millions of dollars
  • The largest source of claims last year related to malpractice outcomes in matters regarding trusts, estates and probate law (with many claims also addressing malpractice in corporate law, securities matters and business transactions)
  • Attorney conflicts are a huge concern in malpractice matters
  • Cyber-security issues (read hacking) will likely feature with increasing frequency in malpractice litigation

A senior official from Ames & Gough points to an increase in firm mergers and lateral hires as being problematic from a conflicts standpoint.

"[T]he potential conflicts arising from these initiatives often are not addressed early enough in the process," she says.

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