The overwhelming majority of legal malpractice claims—over 65 percent—are brought against firms with five or fewer attorneys. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the types of attorney activities that continue to draw the most malpractice complaints focus on the preparation, filing, and transmittal of documents. A recent ABA report noted an extraordinary jump in claims related to pretrial and prehearing activity spiking from 8 percent just four years ago to an unprecedented 19 percent.
Another study indicated that the average lawyer can now expect three legal malpractice claims during his or her career. The Board of Insurance filings by the Texas Lawyer Insurance Exchange (“TLIE”) indicated that TLIE paid over $360 million in settlement and claim costs from its formation in 1979 until 1997.
The following statistics were recorded by the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability 2007 study.
Top 5 Problem Practice Areas in Which Legal Malpractice Claims Arise
Plaintiff’s Personal Injury (21.56% of claims)
Real Estate (20.05% of claims)
Family Law (9.58% of claims)
Estate, Trust, and Probate (9.68% of claims)
Collection/Bankruptcy (7.27% of claims)
Top 5 Problem Activities Committed by the Underlying Attorney
Preparation, Filing, Transmittal of Documents (25.51% of claims)
Commencement of Action/Proceeding (17.32% of claims)
Advice (12.68% of claims)
Pretrial, Prehearing (11.29% of claims)
Settlement/Negotiation (7.67% of claims)
Top 5 Categories of Substantive Errors Committed by the Underlying Attorney
Failure to Know/Properly Apply the Law (11.57% of claims)
Planning Error-Procedure Choice (9.44% of claims)
Inadequate Discovery/Investigation (8.10% of claims)
Failure to Know/Ascertain Deadline (6.3% of claims)
Conflict of Interest (4.79% of claims)
Although you should maintain trust in your attorney, it is also important to question their conduct. At the end of the day, it is your case, and they are working for you, not the other way around.