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ABA panel addresses conduct that gives rise to malpractice claims

One panel member at a recent American Bar Association conference noted to an attorney audience that, "How you treat your client will influence how your client treats you when things go wrong."

Isn't that so patently obvious as to be a truism?

And yet, it seems that many lawyers somehow miss the point, as evidenced by the high number of legal malpractice lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who point to myriad acts or omissions of their former attorneys that were marked by bad faith, willful disregard or pure negligence. Many of those lawsuits feature more than a modicum of acrimony, and for very understandable reasons.

That such is the case is readily borne out by the perceived necessity to even convene a panel to discuss how attorneys should be acting to conscientiously treat their clients and promote their legal interests in a reasonably competent way. Notably, the ABA panel comprised one speaker who is a malpractice claims consultant.

According to the bar association's assembled speakers, there is a great deal that is going wrong in select attorney/client relationships, and much that needs to be communicated to young professionals in the way of so-called "key takeaways."

Those stressed takeaways clearly reveal that many attorneys are getting in trouble with their clients in broad-based ways.

Failure to recognize conflicts in representation is a cited problem. Failure to even properly identify a client is apparently an issue in some instances, as well. Lawyers sometimes fail to execute written fee agreements with their clients (a flat requirement in California) and do not sufficiently document important understandings and case-related developments. General sloppiness, too, justifiably upsets clients who are paying good money for legal advice and relying heavily upon it to promote their best interests.

Are the ABA takeaways resonating with the lawyers who need to be paying attention to them?

Good lawyers always take heed of admonitory advice that will hold them in good stead, of course.

Bad lawyers, well …. It will be interesting to see whether there is a repeat panel performance next year.

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