Risk management tips

With rising malpractice insurance premiums, what can we do to keep our costs as low as possible?

Shop the carriers. But, this will go only so far because all carriers are facing the same issues of rising costs from earlier poor underwriting judgements, increased litigation against lawyers and a generally poor investment market.

What is in the control of law firms, however, which will help control this cost? Good client selection and good client relations policies! Here are some specific suggestions.

Be choosy. Select clients who can afford to pay for the services they request.

Create a formal intake process. During this process of interviewing the client, be sure that you understand what the client expects. Be sure you can deliver. Where there is a difference, be sure to explain to the client what you cannot do. Bottom line, expectations of both the attorney and the client must be on the same level. In retrospect, we find that the unrealistic expectations or unspoken expectations which were left unfulfilled are the primary cause of client dissatisfaction – which then leads to a malpractice action!

More than one lawyer in a firm should have a relationship with the client and know what is happening in the client’s matter. Multiple interaction tends to reduce the “anger factor” against one attorney and thereby reduce the likelihood of a malpractice action. It’s more difficult to sue someone you like. If the client is angry at one lawyer, but likes another in the firm, the client may hesitate to sue because of the relationship with the attorney the client likes.

Create and maintain a disaster recovery system, especially with up-to-date technology; a good system will prevent failed deadlines resulting from loss of data in the event of a disaster such as a flood (could be a broken pipe!), fire, earthquake or the like.

Internally audit your firm (and your files) before anyone else does. Be sure that you pass your own “peer review.”

These approaches will minimize your risk of complaint/claim and help you maintain your malpractice insurance premiums at their lowest possible level.


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