Practice Guides

As part of our mission to help you mitigate risk, we’ve created some handy guides on a variety of topics dealing with
legal malpractice — everything from fee disputes and data breaches to using social media.

Some topics were brought to our attention through our risk management hotline. Others cover  issues that come up
regularly in claims and suits. Still others are “heads ups” about issues like regulatory changes that we’ve
identified and think you need to know about.

We hope you find them helpful. And if you have any suggestions for other risk management related topics you’d like to
see covered, let us know.


The Fundamentals of Loss Prevention for Lawyers

The Fundamentals of Loss Prevention for Lawyers is designed to help firms
implement a loss prevention plan that will significantly reduce the risk of legal malpractice.
Lawyers are in the service business. Where there is the possibility for a dissatisfied or
disgruntled client, there is a potential for both a legal malpractice claim or an ARDC complaint.

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Backup Lawyers
If you were to experience a short-term disability or injury that prevented you from working, what would
happen to your clients and your firm? Would they still be there when you got back? Would important
matters be neglected leading to possible claims?
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Billing, Collecting Fees, and Handling Client Funds
Fee disputes are at the heart of a significant percentage of legal malpractice claims. When a lawyer
sues their client for unpaid fees it is inevitable that the lawyer will be countersued for legal
malpractice, or a grievance with the disciplinary agency is filed. In some cases, merely mailing a final
bill triggers threats of legal malpractice. To avoid fee disputes, use the tips in this guide for
billing and collecting fees for legal services.
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Calendaring and Time Management
Better time management results in fewer claims for failure to calendar or file, procrastination and lost
documents. This excerpt from Loss Prevention for Lawyers provides guidelines for establishing a
calendaring system.
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Client Relations
Dissatisfaction often stems more from the way a client was treated by a lawyer than due to the quality
of the legal services provided. Solid communication skills and managing expectations by all employees in
a firm go a long way to reducing the likelihood of suits and claims.
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Client Screening
Lawyers who report claims often start with “I should have never agreed to represent this client
because…” While it may be difficult to turn down legal work, your reputation and your bottom line will
suffer more by taking on clients that you did not properly screen.
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Conflict of Interest
Conflicts have long been among the leading causes of legal malpractice claims and disciplinary actions.
Yet the rules governing conflicts can be confusing and difficult to apply in real-life situations.
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Documentation and Case Management
If you were sued for malpractice on any given matter, would the paper file substantiate the legal
services you performed and verify the client’s consent to all vital decisions? If not, your
documentation procedures need improvement.
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Documenting Engagement (and Non-Engagement)
It is crucial to have an engagement letter in the file which is the starting point for your defense
against any grievance or malpractice claim that might arise. A case without a written lawyer-client
agreement will turn on what you told the client and what the client heard you say. Your vulnerability to
malpractice liability is high.
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File Retention and Destruction
“What documents must my law firm keep?” “How must they be kept?” and “How long after the end of
representation must I keep them?” This guide provides specific information to help you be in compliance
and should you be accused of professional negligence assist in your defense.
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Lawyer-to-Lawyer Relationships That Can Cause Liability
Every lawyer knows that they can be held liable for the wrongful acts of their law partners. Many are
unaware, however, that there are other, less obvious relationships between lawyers that can create
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