Why do solicitors have claims made against them?
Throughout the last few months, I have shared my top ten tips to avoid professional negligence claims. As a professional negligence solicitor, I have spent thirty years helping clients with negligence claims against all kinds of professionals – including solicitors, accountants, architects and surveyors.
“Perhaps the most surprising fact about professional negligence claims… is that very few of them arise from lack of legal knowledge… around 90% of all claims arise from an underlying administrative error.”
Lawyers might give advice which is incorrect, but this typically happens because they are advising on an area of law with which they are unfamiliar or have no knowledge. Alternatively, they have not obtained proper instructions from their clients or asked the right questions.
Missed deadlines and time limits
In my experience (and confirmed by insurers) one of the largest causes of claims against solicitors is missed time limits – missing limitation dates or even failing to register an option under a lease rendering it ineffective. Sometimes the time limit is not identified clearly at the outset or noted down in a key date diary or a case management system.
Another large cause of claims is poor communication and that can extend to other professionals as well as solicitors. As they say sometimes – assumptions are the mother of all mistakes.
There is a risk that a professional has assumed that a client has understood every detail and not tried to explain or even clarified a matter and has not confirmed it in writing or followed up instructions. I have even come across claims where professionals have said that they assumed that their client will not be able to understand the issue even if it is explained to them!
Changes in environment – remote working
There will inevitably be claims arising from errors as a result of the shift to remote working and pressures on professionals caused by operational and financial challenges - security of data, staff changes and challenges arising in relation to client work. Professionals may be tempted to take on clients that they would not do normally or accept instructions in areas outside their expertise. However, as can be seen, from the top ten tips in my blogs over the last few months, key steps can be and should be taken to prevent or minimise claims.
Apart from my top ten tips, there are other key risk management tips. These include advising clients of risks if they fail to meet deadlines, keeping up to date with trends, making sure activities are covered by indemnity insurance policies.
So, the moral of the story is that good risk management avoids claim, it avoids hundreds of hours lost and finally think of the risk to your professional reputation.
If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.
Just in case you missed the other tips: