Joe Barnard, CPA

Top Five Reasons Lawyers Get Sued

No matter how earnest and diligent you are in your legal practice, you’re not immune to malpractice suits. While some attorneys are sued for reasons they could have prevented with greater attention to detail or more honest dealing, plenty of lawsuits arise out of situations in which even the best attorneys can find themselves.

Here are some of the top reasons attorneys are hit with malpractice claims.

Substantive Errors

This is the largest category of malpractice suits, and it encompasses many kinds of errors and omissions. No one is perfect, so even the highest level of care can’t completely insulate you from these types of lawsuits. Substantive errors that can spur clients to sue include things such as

  • Mistakes made because of an improper understanding of the law
  • Inadequate discovery
  • Procedural errors
  • Errors in judgment or strategy
  • Failing to anticipate tax consequences of an action

Administrative Errors

Administrative errors made by the lawyer or by other staff members can lead to client losses and resulting malpractice claims. These can include issues such as

  • Missed deadlines
  • Lost documents or evidence
  • Typos or errors in transcribing information
  • Math errors

Conflicts of Interest

Conflict of interest is consistently one of the leading reasons lawyers face malpractice claims. While all attorneys should be vigilant about avoiding potential conflicts, a couple of situations require extra caution:

  • Conflicts are a particular hazard for lawyers that work on trusts and estates, as it’s not unusual for third parties, such as children, spouses, or grandchildren, to contact an attorney on behalf of an elderly client.
  • Conflicts can arise as law firms grow, either through mergers and acquisitions or through hiring from other firms.1

Poor Client Communications

As every attorney knows, clear communication is an essential skill of the profession. This is true every bit as much when your communicating with your clients as when you’re in front of a judge or other legal decision maker. Problems with client communications can result in a variety of missteps, such as

  • Failing to follow client instructions
  • Failing to properly communicate fees
  • Improper withdrawal from a case
  • Failing to obtain proper client consent

Cyber Security & Confidentiality

This is, perhaps, the factor that is least within an attorney’s control. While you must take precautions to protect and secure your clients’ personal information, documents, and related evidence, you can’t prevent all potential problems with data security.

Computers, laptops, and mobile devices can be stolen, and security systems can be hacked. Even simple employee errors, like failing to notice an email address that improperly autofills in a recipient field, can result in confidentiality breaches.

In addition to cyber issues, confidentiality can be inadvertently breached when an attorney fails to obtain client permission to discuss a case with another attorney for advice. Even when you take steps to eliminate names and other identifying information, these details can be missed and accidentally disclosed to unauthorized parties. To be safe, always get permission from your clients before discussing their cases with anyone—with or without identifying information.

There is no way to ensure that none of these issues will affect a legal practice. With the costs of legal malpractice cases on the rise—both in terms of higher payoutsand higher legal fees for malpractice defense attorneys3—professional liability insurance has become a must for attorneys, even in states where their professional associations don’t require it.

To discuss options for attorney professional liability insurance and get a quote for your practice, contact the experts at ProDefender at (866) 434-8557 or


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1 "Lawyers’ Professional Liability Claims Trends: 2015." Ames & Gough, 2015. Accessed 31 Aug 2017.

2 Laird. "ABA study suggests legal malpractice insurers are settling sooner." ABA Journal. American Bar Association, 17 Oct 2016. Accessed 31 Aug 2017.

3 "Lawyers’ Professional Liability Claims Trends: 2015." Ames & Gough, 2015. Accessed 31 Aug 2017.

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