Legal Malpractice Claims on The Rise

12/11/2010 | Legal Malpractice

As a lawyer and law firm handling legal malpracticeclaims, I found this recent article by the Insurance Law Journal very interesting.  According to the Journal, legal malpractice claims (claims by clients against their former lawyers) are on the rise.  The Journal speculates the reason has to do with more and more lawyers struggling to find business in the current economy and feeling the need to practice "door" law; meaning the feel the need to take any and every case that comes in the door.  The problem with this is not every lawyer can handle every type of case.  Plain and simple.  I don't handle divorce cases, because I don't know how.  I don't handle criminal cases, because I don't know how.  Unfortunately, and I see this in my practice all the time, domestic relations lawyers and criminal lawyers far too often think they can handle a personal injury case.  "How hard could it be" they ask themselves.  
The answer is "very."  Personal injury cases are filled with landmines that pose potential legal malpractice implications to lawyers unexperienced in this area.  I consistently see clients that have gone to their traffic ticket lawyer or the lawyer that wrote their will with their personal injury case and he or she has missed the statute of limitations, or failed to get the defendant served, or missed a key piece of evidence, or failed to take into consideration the effect of insurance subrogation lien.  Often times, I am unable to assist this clients with their current case because it has been mishandled so badly.  Our only hope of making the client whole is to bring a claim against their former lawyer for legal malpractice.  
What's more troubling is that it doesn't have to be this way.  Most states allow lawyers to share fees in cases.  This means that the divorce lawyer or traffice ticket lawyer can refer the case to an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle the case and share in any fees generated.  It's a "win-win."  The client gets the best represenation, the referring lawyer gets a portion of the fee and doesn't risk commiting malpractice or harming the client's case.  Hopefully, although not likely, this article will entice lawyers to do the right thing.  

HP