For the last 12 months, most California attorneys have worked from home instead of an office. In addition to logistical challenges, working from home presents further risks of potential claims against attorneys. Below are three tips firms should consider to mitigate claim risks.
First, attorneys should pay greater attention to their calendars. Prior to COVID, many firm’s calendaring systems were handled by legal assistants who calendared events based on receipt of hard copy documents. Presently, firms may not receive or process mail in a routine or timely fashion. Moreover, COVID-19 has led to an increase in electronic service directly to individual attorneys. Attorneys who receive time sensitive documents must alert staff to ensure that all dates are calendared. Firms also should develop policies to ensure all events get properly calendared. For example, attorneys can request support staff be copied on all emails for particular cases or create email rules so support staff automatically receive copies of emails from certain addresses.
Second, attorneys who manage or supervise other attorneys must remain diligent. California Rule of Professional Conduct 5.1 requires managerial lawyers implement effective measures to ensure firm lawyers comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act. Comment A notes that managers must establish internal policies and procedures to properly supervise inexperienced lawyers, a challenge when lawyers work remotely.
Third, COVID-19 has depressed the need for legal services in some areas. Attorneys and law firms experiencing a decrease in business should avoid the temptation to handle cases where they lack adequate experience. A lawyer who does take on a case in a new field, should consult with another attorney with experience in that field.
Many lawyers look forward to the day they can return to the office. Until then, lawyers at firms small or large should consider the tips above to mitigate the risk of malpractice claims.
About the Author:
John Sullivan is a partner at Long & Levit, LLP, where he handles professional liability cases, attorney fee disputes, partnership disputes, and state bar disciplinary matters. He also serves as the Chair of BASF’s Legal Malpractice Section.