Claims against lawyers are just not fun experiences. It gives you a real sense of how the general public reacts to being sued. All that is heightened by the fact that you are a lawyer and you know the law and you can’t imagine one of your clients suing you. All of the human emotions come into play and you typically want the very best defense that any money could buy. It makes the defense of other lawyers truly hard work. You think your clients are difficult, try defending lawyers.
So again, it is worth some firm time and money to keep your money from spilling off the table. At the very least you would lose your deductible. More importantly, you will lose other firm time, and you will become preoccupied with the claim against you causing the loss of even more time. Lawyers do not just turn this over to their carrier and forget about it. They wake up in the middle of the night and leave me a message.
Active loss prevention saves a firm more than just money. It preserves the firm’s reputation and keeps the internal disruptions that a claim or adverse publicity can cause to all of your marketing efforts. If you task someone to be in charge of loss prevention, back them up. Ignoring the ethics partner or loss prevention partner’s advice, without the express approval of the rest of the firm, is totally unacceptable and should be a firing event. It is just that important to your practice. Whether in small or large partnerships, you are all in this together.
Through this process, you will have a lawyer who is more knowledgeable about state ethics issues, insurance requirements, and claims avoidance. It will then create a culture at your firm that catching problems, avoiding problems, and dealing with problems is the right thing to do. That really determines how you practice law in the sense that doing this extra step shows that you act with great diligence and skill and in an honest and straightforward fashion. As they say: “Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
If you don’t have the time to properly develop a loss prevention program and monitor it, hire it done. I know of a Pittsburgh firm that retains a retired law professor for consultation purposes. It has served them wonderfully well over the years. When you stop, think, ask and then act, you get far better results in a law practice.