It’s never fun to have a business deal turn sour, but when your business is already suffering, you might be a bit more sensitive to the loss. Right? Odds are you would. And this is notable because such economic pressures are one of the factors that have led to a recent increase in legal malpractice claims.
According to an industry report from the insurance company Ames & Gough, legal malpractice claims spiked in 2019. They also looked to become even more common in 2020, especially in the face of increased economic pressures. But what are some of the other drivers in this rise?
A look at malpractice outside the courtroom
Naturally, malpractice claims are more common when attorneys more frequently offer faulty representation. After all, an attorney’s negligence—or intentional harm—is one of the requirements for legal malpractice. Simple mistakes won’t cut it. The attorney needs to fail to meet reasonable standards.
However, there are reasons such failures may become more common in our current environment. One firm explored the issue from the attorney’s perspective, aiming to help attorneys avoid malpractice. They found that attorneys faced several challenges to their quality of service, including:
- Economic pressures. As noted above, malpractice claims tend to rise as economic volatility and financial sensitivity increase.
- Rapid changes to the law. Attorneys need to base their counsel in the law. When the law changes quickly, such as it has in the face of the recent health crisis, attorneys need to keep up. Attorneys who fail to stay up-to-date risk harming their clients’ interests.
- A lack of face-to-face interaction. Many attorneys and firms have responded to the global health crisis by working remotely. And some may not adapt to this new mode of work as well or as fully as others. They may struggle to maintain their client communication, even if the standards don’t change.
- Business sales, acquisitions and bankruptcies. Changes to businesses raise several types of malpractice risk. Attorneys need to investigate for conflicts of interest with each new restructuring. And California allows for some legal malpractice claims to change targets in the wake of bankruptcies and other changes.
- Increased pressure on business contracts. When businesses suffer, some may try to avoid their contractual obligations. Attorneys who fail to draft contracts that hold up in court may find themselves facing malpractice claims from the injured parties.
- Stretching too far. Attorneys face many of the same pressures as the businesses they represent. When their business slows down, they may reach outside their comfort zone to increase their income, but when they do, they risk walking straight into claims of incompetence.
The good news is the standards don’t change
If you’ve suffered damages due to your attorney’s negligence or malfeasance, you’re sadly not alone. The bad news is that legal malpractice is on the rise. Some of the rise owes to the increased pressures on the people filing the claims. They may feel more need to recover their damages. But part of the rise owes to changes in the attorneys’ quality of service.
The good news is that the chaotic events we all face don’t change the standards for legal service. Attorneys still need to act responsibly, competently and in a timely fashion. You don’t need to put up with hurtful representation.