May 2013 Bar Bulletin
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May 2013 Bar Bulletin

Ten Risk Challenges to Lawyers

By Christopher Howard and Colin Folawn


Much of a lawyer's job involves helping others with what has gone wrong or might go wrong. In so doing, lawyers expose themselves to many risks. This article provides a non-scientific countdown of 10 pitfalls that can get lawyers into trouble.

As an overview, there are some surprising demographics for lawyer claims. Newer lawyers are less likely to get into trouble statistically. The risk of all types of claims rises with a number of years of practice. Also, although many people might expect solo practitioners to be at the highest risk, statistics show that solo practitioners are at less-than-average risk. The highest risk is among lawyers practicing in firms of two to five attorneys.

10. Problems with Technology

The rapid evolution of communication technology is increasingly outstripping many lawyers' ability to keep up with it. This makes it harder and harder for lawyers to master their own technology, as well as that of their clients.

The risks in the former case include such mundane issues as allowing your email auto fill to put in the wrong email address, hitting "Reply to All," and being able to master the various technologies associated with e-filing with the courts. In the latter case, courts have increasingly put a burden upon lawyers to be familiar with e-discovery issues, sometimes placing higher standards on the lawyers than on the clients whose e-discovery is being produced. This is an increasing area of lawyer exposure.

9. Legal Errors

Lawyers are human and sometimes they can get in trouble for simply being wrong about the law. This is a problem if the lawyer skips a step, such as making sure to stay current with the local rules, confirming that a case is still good law or, worse yet, simply practicing by reading headnotes in cases, rather than the cases themselves.

8. Problems with Supervision

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