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Annual legal malpractice survey: many problem areas for law firms

Insurance broker company Ames & Gough conducts a widely studied annual survey of legal malpractice claims across the United States, looking at both specifics and trends. The findings it culled in its most recent look at data supplied by multiple large malpractice defense insurers are instructive. We pass them along here for our readers' interest and consideration.

Here's a foremost takeaway: Lawyers get into hot water when they oversell their experience and expertise.

Put another way: If the attorneys in your law firm don't command deep and demonstrated experience in a given legal area, don't hype your ability to perform for clients at a stellar level in that realm.

In making that point, the survey particularly underscores the world of large-scale business transactions and corporate securities matters. An Ames & Gough executive says that a law firm risks a malpractice outcome if it lacks "the experience and know-how to guide [a] company through these complex and high-stakes challenges."

Unsurprisingly, study findings also show an uptick of client-authored challenges to retained attorneys and law firms in matters surrounding commercial real estate. Transactions in that realm are understandably complex and high-value concerns. Moreover, many different actors typically participate in commercial property ventures, which can increase the potential for conflicts of interests to occur.

The Ames & Gould findings also point to the trusts-and-estates practice area as being a domain ripe for malpractice challenges, with the same being true concerning business clients' cyber-security claims.

A majority of the surveyed malpractice insurers stated that they had more than 20 claims exceeding $500,000 last year.

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