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Avoid Professional Negligence Claims By Turning Down Work

Avoid Professional Negligence Claims By Turning Down Work

TIP 9. Say No

Or put another way - “Why did I take this client on in the first place?”

Sometimes I hear about a claim that went wrong from the moment a client signed up. Despite the pressures to attract clients and rack up billable hours, there are times when a case costs more than it’s worth. 

It may be a situation outside your experience, the fact that your best advisors are already overloaded with work, or just a niggling doubt about whether you can work with someone. Whatever the reason, if you’re unsure you can deliver, sometimes is it not better to say no?

One of the issues to consider for risk management is to vet any new client through a strict procedure. A checklist - perhaps you could ask yourself the following questions: -

Do I want to act for this person? We may feel obliged to take on clients because they have been referred. However, consider if the client has a problematic history with the firm or another firm and whether there is a short deadline – the shorter the deadline the more chance for an error.

Who is the client? Problems may arise if there is more than one party – business partnerships, directors etc. Anything unusual should be looked at very carefully. There could be a conflict of interest (see Tip 8!).

Why has the client approached you? Is there a hidden agenda? Do you really know what the client wants or needs? Is there a difficult personality involved or a history of non-payment or late payment of bills? Have you considered whether why the client has approached you?

Do you have the skills resources and time to service the client’s needs? We consider money laundering risks, but do we consider file management risks?

Dealing with claims against lawyers, I often find that lawyers are instructed at short notice and perhaps they have to meet urgent deadlines. There is pressure to respond. The formalities in taking proper instructions will be missed. Risk management procedures are overlooked. Full instructions are not taken. Expectations of service differ. Instructions are verbal. No form of retainer letter is agreed. All this leads to chaos – and, in my experience, claims for negligence.  

If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.


Just in case you missed the other tips: