Category Archives: Legal Malpractice

Malpractice for a Client’s Failure to Report

Although some law schools are notorious for offering elective courses like “space law” that are of limited practical use to most attorneys, there is still a set of core classes that are invariably recommended. Courses such as tax law and corporate law often fall into this group, as most lawyers will have to consider tax repercussions or the structure of a company at some point in their careers, regardless of their practice area. One big firm is now learning that despite the dearth of classes in insurance law, it is a subject that every attorney should become familiar with.

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Professional Plagiarism Leads to Copyright Claim

Clients expect professionals to work diligently on their behalf, but also want them to achieve results in a cost-effective manner. Experienced professionals are able to accomplish both ends by drawing from their knowledge base and past work product, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel each time they undertake a new task. For instance, in the legal profession, it often behooves attorneys to begin legal research on novel issues within their firm to see if others have already addressed the issue and have analysis on hand. But attorneys may at times also find it useful to look to publicly-accessible briefs and filings from outside firms to see how others have addressed the topic. Relying on such third-party work-product, however, could be a recipe for professional liability.

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What to Report and When?

Applying for malpractice insurance is a critically important process and a necessary risk management tool. Professionals must be sure to complete the applications completely and must take steps to include all pertinent information. In a recent decision, the Northern District of Illinois concluded that an attorney omitted material information in his application and denied coverage. The result could be devastating for the attorney.

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Attorney Reprimanded for Legal Aid to In-Laws

Professionals are often approached by friends and family for advice. At times, the particular issue might not fall squarely within the professional’s area of expertise or may involve a matter outside of the jurisdiction in which they are licensed to practice. Although the matter involves a seemingly trivial task, professionals cannot forego ethical standards simply because they happen to be close with the individual seeking assistance.

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Risks Facing Local Counsel

According to a recent Law360 article co-authored by a member of PL Matters, “the practice of law can be incredibly rewarding, yet it is fraught with risk. Those risks amplify when an attorney steps outside her primary practice area or fails to effectively communicate with the client. Serving as a local counsel can be beneficial to all — client, lead, and local counsel — as long as expectations and communication are clear.”

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Unethical ≠ Negligent

It’s not uncommon to see allegations of ethical breaches incorporated into malpractice claims. Former clients may argue that their attorney’s failure to comply with the rules of professional conduct evidences negligence. Often, however, that’s insufficient to sustain a claim. An ethical breach may be considered by the fact-finder but, without more, is unlikely to support a claim. Consider the recent decision from the New York State Appellate Division which continued a trend of dismissing legal malpractice claims based purely on ethical violations.

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Judicial Scrutiny of Frivolous Litigation Statute

Nobody wants to be named as a defendant in a lawsuit. Litigation is expensive, time-consuming, upsetting, and often intimidating for clients. Being dragged into a suit is even more frustrating when the defendant knows the claims are entirely without merit. Defendants who are the victim of frivolous litigation are not without recourse, however. Where the underlying lawsuit is unwarranted, without evidentiary support, or presented for an improper purpose, such as harassment or delay, defendants may have the opportunity to seek damages against the plaintiff and the lawyers who brought the claim.

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When Clients Turn on their Lawyers

Have you heard of the “Pharma Bro”; the CEO who, according to reports, notoriously purchased a drug used to treat AIDS patients only to dramatically increase its price? He’s made considerable press recently and now he’s turning on his lawyers. In a recent hearing, lawyers for pharmaceutical hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli requested a delay in scheduling trial as they contemplate asserting “reliance of counsel” as a defense.

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Liability for Failure to Report Misconduct

Many professionals are bound by a code of professional conduct. Sure, we have to play by the rules but those rules may require that we ensure others do as well. In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Professional Conduct considered the circumstances in which an attorney is required to report rule violations by others. The Board addresses two specific questions in its opinion: (a) whether a lawyer prosecuting a malpractice case is obligated to report the defendant lawyer to the disciplinary authority and (b) whether the information acquired form the client regarding their prior lawyer’s conduct is privileged, thereby eliminating any duty to report.

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The Garden State: Malpractice Fee Shifting in NJ

New Jersey is known for its beaches and its tomatoes. In the malpractice community, New Jersey is also known for its unique rules on fee shifting. New Jersey allows successful litigants in attorney malpractice suits to recover as consequential damages the legal expenses and attorneys’ fees they incur in prosecuting the claim. We previously reported on the case of Innes v. Marzano-Lesnevich, pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court that could potentially expand the rules on fee shifting in malpractice cases. Well, the New Jersey Supreme Court has spoken and any attorney practicing in New Jersey should be aware of the outcome.

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