Attorneys can often avoid legal malpractice claims by simply taking the time to communicate with their clients. An article in one magazine for attorneys says, "Good client communications can be the key factor in bringing a quick end to a malpractice claim or avoiding one altogether."
The American Bar Association's (ABA) professional conduct rules address communication. According to these rules, attorneys should:
- Talk with clients about how they want to accomplish their goals.
- Respond to requests for information by their clients.
- Keep their clients informed of decisions and other information related to their case.
If someone has retained your services, they're likely nervous. Their freedom may be on the line. They may be at risk of losing a substantial amount of money. Having clear, consistent communication with them can ease their anxiety and reassure them that you're doing everything you can on their behalf.
That often means doing more than simply responding to their calls and emails. Being proactive in communicating with clients can go a long way to making them happy -- or at least less unhappy. An article in the ABA Journal advises attorneys to proactively communicate with clients in situations including when a client's consent is needed regarding
- Determining the means for settling a case (litigation vs. mediation or arbitration, for example)
- Taking action, such as settling a case or appealing a ruling
- Waiving a fiduciary obligation that you have to a client -- such as a confidentiality
You feel more at ease and confident with your doctor when you understand what they're doing and why, and you feel that you have some say in your treatment. Likewise, your legal clients will have more confidence in you if they feel like they're in the loop on your decisions and understand the reasoning and law behind your recommendations. This can help you avoid malpractice actions and ethics complaints.
If you are facing a malpractice suit or other action that threatens your license, your practice and/or your reputation, it's important not to try to handle it on your own. An attorney experienced in handling legal malpractice and disciplinary cases can provide valuable guidance and help.