Rethinking the Professional Apology

Professionals are only human. Even the most cautious professional is not immune from the occasional mistake. Whether the mistake gives rise to a claim of professional malpractice, however, will often depend not on the error that was made, but on what actions the professional took to resolve the error after it occurred. Professionals are generally reluctant to admit responsibility for a personal mistake. Traditional wisdom suggests that doing so would amount to an admission of guilt that could provide damaging evidence in a future lawsuit. However, recent studies suggest that in cases where malpractice is clear, owing up to a mistake early can actually be the best method to settling lawsuits, or avoiding them altogether.
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The Continuous Treatment Doctrine: A Doctor’s Nightmare

Every jurisdiction maintains a series of statute of limitations which set the amount of time a litigant has to initiate a claim before it expires. Some of the purposes of these statutes is to prompt reasonable diligence by the plaintiff to initiate claims and to prevent exposure for long dormant claims. Attorneys are familiar with the various exceptions that act to toll the limitations period, and establishing when the statutory period begins to run can sometimes lead to protracted litigation in its own right. Here, we focus on the “continuous treatment doctrine” against the backdrop of a particularly scary decision for the medical malpractice community.
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Well Documented Advice Defeats Malpractice Claim

The best is not always good enough. Clients sue their professionals, whether justified or not. So, while there is no way to eliminate malpractice exposure, there are plenty of steps to avoid or help to defend such a suit. One of the golden rules of risk management is to properly maintain a written record of communications with the client. In particular, documentation is especially important when the client and professional may disagree. A well-documented file will not prevent all lawsuits but, as exemplified in a recent New Jersey decision, may serve as a dispositive defense during litigation.
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Malpractice: Failure to Report Client’s Claim

There is no upside to failing to report a claim. You’ve been warned of the consequences facing professionals who take a wait and see approach or apply self-help measures before reporting. In some cases the professional may consider the claim meritless and therefore think that it doesn’t give rise to a “reportable” event. Other professionals, usually attorneys, may attempt to handle the claim on their own before notifying the carrier. In these scenarios, the carrier may elect to deny coverage and the insured is left to pay the bill. An interesting wrinkle to this theme may apply when the insured is represented by counsel before or during an event that may trigger coverage. What reporting responsibility falls on counsel?
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Overzealous Advocacy Leads to Sanctions

Attorneys have an obligation to provide zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients and to pursue a client’s interests within the bounds of the law. To this end, lawyers are expected to protect clients during discovery by properly counseling them in anticipation of depositions and objecting to requests that are truly improper without crossing the line. However, overzealous advocacy, which obstructs legitimate discovery requests, may draw judicial ire and potentially lead to disciplinary action. Consider the following example.
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Dropping the Problem Client

Professionals and their clients do not always see eye to eye. Whether there are disagreements over litigation strategy, conflicts in personality, or a client who refuses to pay, many professionals encounter a problem client at some time in their career. While professionals may be tempted to cut ties with these clients when the relationship turns sour, an ugly break-up can make matters worse and may invite a malpractice suit.
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Attorneys: You’re not Fortune-Tellers

Attorneys can’t predict the future. Even the most experienced of us cannot provide assurances about the outcome of our client’s claims and defenses. Sure, we’ll provide some suggestions and list the possibilities but it is the attorney who sets unreasonable expectations that may end up in trouble. Just ask the attorneys in Dallas who fell victim to a malpractice claim for allegedly over-promising a particular result to their former client.
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Unpunished Good Deeds: Pro Bono Considerations

Pro bono work is an important, and often fulfilling, aspect of an attorney’s practice. For those in financial hardship, the pro bono attorney may spell the difference between hope and disaster. However, some attorneys may hesitate to take on a pro bono assignment because they are wary of the potential for malpractice exposure. Indeed, one report found about half of all attorneys surveyed identified lack of malpractice coverage as a factor discouraging participation. This and other concerns are warranted. While pro bono work is to be encouraged in the appropriate circumstance, there are risk factors to consider before doing so.
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Does Bitcoin Make Cents? Evaluating New Payment Options For Your Firm

Recently, a New York law firm made news when it announced that it would begin accepting Bitcoin as payment. The firm will partner with a Bitcoin payment processing company who will host the firm’s payment system and assist the firm in converting digital currency payments into fiat currency. Other professionals are taking notice, and are permitting clients to pay for legal services using Bitcoin. Should you?
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C.E.Oh No. Titles Firms Should Avoid

Attorneys, architects, accountants, engineers, insurance brokers and agents are all business-persons. Some of these professionals balance their professional obligations on the one hand with business obligations on the other. Pay bills, manage staff, execute leases, develop operational strategy. For some professionals overwhelmed by the business side of running a professional organization, an option is to rely upon laypersons for help. Indeed, it is not uncommon for firms to hire individuals to head up operations, some who may be designated with prestigious titles: CEO or COO. But as fitting as these titles are in the corporate world, these designations may be problematic for law firms.
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