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.

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