Even experienced, smart attorneys can make mistakes that can lead to one or more of the client risks mentioned earlier. It can happen from overwork, or acting outside an area of expertise, or failure to delegate to more appropriate lawyers in the firm. While much less common, occasionally lawyers act improperly and may be subject to misconduct accusations.
Lawyers who wear multiple hats, such as acting as a director, trustee, executor, or who otherwise might have a direct or indirect personal interest in a matter may be more susceptible to creating conflicts.
Attorneys who decide to leave your firm present important risks: foremost among them is the loss of their expertise and any clients who might leave with them, and the confidential client and firm information they may have and how that will be protected.
- Engage in ongoing professional development and training to help maintain high performance capabilities. This is more than simply keeping up with changing laws. It should also include practice and risk management initiatives.
- When hiring new lawyers, be diligent in the interview process, and perform thorough reference and background checks to help avoid a bad fit.
- Establish procedures and protocols for protection of client and firm confidential information when a lawyer leaves the firm. A thoughtful exit interview can help you understand why a lawyer is leaving and alert you to potential internal problems.
- For a more in-depth discussion of malpractice risks, see this 2010 issue of Law Practice on the American Bar Association website.