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Focus on a downplayed problem that adversely affects legal clients

A recent national article on law and lawyers makes a number of pointed commentaries on the legal profession. At its core, though, it is essentially a warning piece focused on a single and alarming takeaway.

That is this: Attorneys from California to Maine are under stress.

And not just run-of-the mill pressure that many millions of Americans can commonly identify with and that occasionally impacts adversely on their personal life and work. No, this stress (according to multiple industry commentators) is often personally debilitating, leading to substandard work product that mars client outcomes.

Anecdotal evidence certainly seems to back that up, especially when it is offered by principals of insurance companies that provide liability coverage to law firms and sole practitioners in legal malpractice cases.

One of those individuals says that lawyer impairment issues are at the root of problems in a “relatively steady stream” of all malpractice lawsuits targeting the country’s biggest firms.

“They often end up being significant claims,” he says.

As serious as the problem can be in large firms, it is likely much larger in smaller entities, which have fewer resources available to identify and address lawyers’ impairment issues. A top-tier executive with an insurer catering to small practices says that impairment (which can owe to drugs, alcohol, divorce or myriad other stressors) is perhaps a central factor in about 10% of all malpractice cases his company defends.

“This is a problem [and] not something that should be swept under the rug,” he stresses.

It is a certainly a problem for clients, which is our sole focus at the Los Angeles pro-client legal malpractice law firm of Glickman & Glickman.

We acknowledge at our firm that some level of stress is inherent in the legal profession, but not in a unique or especially outsized way. Doctors, teachers, financial advisers, law enforcers and practitioners in scores of other professions also have problems and challenges that they must regularly deal with. Work-linked stress, though, should never be cited as an excuse for negligent performance that harms third parties who are justifiably relying upon a professional’s competence.

We will have more to say on this matter in our next blog post.