Archive for December, 2010

31
Dec
10

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!!!

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25
Dec
10

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings

For those celebrating Christmas today, Merry Christmas.  I really like this picture.

For those that celebrated something else during this season, I hope your holiday celebration was great.

13
Dec
10

The End Of The Lefkowitz Series On Client Service And Claim Avoidance

This is the last in a five-part series written by David Lefkowitz of The Lefkowitz Firm, LLC.  David recently wrote a column for the Fulton County Daily Report (subscription required) on ways attorneys could improve customer service and avoid claims.  On this subject, David’s advice is worth listening to.  Why?  Because David is one of the top attorneys in Georgia that focuses his practice on suing lawyers.  Thus, when David offers advice on claim avoidance, you should listen.  When he offers advice on how to be popular at bar functions, maybe not.

Buy Insurance – by David Lefkowitz

I can read your mind: Here’s the self-interested legal malpractice lawyer trying to convince everyone that they should have insurance. The unbiased fact is that errors and omissions insurance can protect your personal assets and provide the funds necessary to compensate a client who claims you committed an error. Not only does it help to preserve your personal assets (like an LLP), but rather than (or in addition to) shielding your assets from a client, it provides funds from which a damaged client may recover. It’s nice to take care of your clients, don’t you agree?

The insurance will also provide you with an attorney to defend a claim. Errors and omissions insurance is not required in Georgia, and it always astonishes me how many lawyers choose to be uninsured, including prominent lawyers in the public eye. The business decision not to carry insurance is, in my view, a cavalier way to practice law.

Some attorneys believe the urban legend that uninsured lawyers won’t be sued. This is not true. Some other attorneys believe that insurance is too expensive. Well, insurance is always too expensive…until you need it. Protect yourself and protect your client; buy insurance.

And let me add this: if you are going to have insurance, be sure to communicate honestly with the carrier in the application process and the annual renewal process. If you fail to answer the underwriting questions honestly, you risk waiving coverage for a claim. You also will have a contractual obligation to promptly report errors which could give rise to a claim. Fulfill this requirement, as insurers are quick to challenge coverage for claims that are reported late.

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I want to thank David Lefkowitz for sharing his article with the audience here at Attorney Defender. 

Attorney Defender has published a series of posts on the subject of attorney errors and omissions insurance.  Those posts, available here, here and here, also provide valuable advice and information on obtaining and getting the benefit of an attorney E&O policy. 

David’s statement that uninsured attorneys still get sued is very true.  I have represented several uninsured attorneys in civil claims.  Some chose not to buy insurance, and others failed to report claims timely to ensure that their insurance would provide coverage.  Don’t fall into either category.  Get a quality E&O policy, and make sure you take care to accurately complete your application/renewal forms and timely report claims and potential claims.

06
Dec
10

The David Lefkowitz Series – Part IV

David Lefkowitz of The Lefkowitz Firm, LLC recently offered his advice to the Georgia bar via the Fulton County Daily Report (subscription required) on how to improve client service with the goal of reducing claims against lawyers. David’s advice is worth taking as he is one of Georgia’s best attorneys with a significant practice of handling legal malpractice claims for plaintiffs. David has agreed to allow me to share his thoughts with you here at Attorney Defender. 

Define the scope of your representation – by David Lefkowitz

Under Georgia ethical rules, contingency fee contracts must be in writing. While no other fee arrangements are required to be in writing, I strongly urge all lawyers to set forth the terms of their representation in writing and have the agreement signed by the client. I could spend an hour talking about the do’s and don’ts of fee contracts (in fact, I do, in CLE’s), but one of the most important aspects of the contract is the portion in which you discuss the scope of the work you will conduct.

David Lending A Helping Hand

Using a personal injury analogy, it is not uncommon for an attorney to put in her contract that she will represent the client “for all claims arising out the incident which occurred on November 5th.” If the attorney plans to handle the personal injury claim only, she should specify that fact. Otherwise, if a worker’s compensation claim, or a disability claim, arises from the incident, the client will have a reasonable expectation that the attorney is handling those claims as well. If a deadline is missed, the client may assert that the attorney should have filed a claim. The attorney will contend that she never agreed to handle anything other than the personal injury claim.

Everybody loves lawyers, right? No? Then you don’t want to have a he-said/she-said in front of a skeptical jury. Document what you have been engaged to handle. Your client will understand what services he is entitled to, and you will have protected yourself.

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My practice has seen several claims asserted against attorneys that arise out of a disagreement over the scope of the attorney’s representation of the client.  The best protection against such claims is, as David suggests, a clear retention agreement.  For a related conversation, see How To Ruin Your Malpractice Insurer’s Day – III.




Kim Jackson Cleans Up The Mess

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