As reported in the Insurance Journal on Tuesday, July 11, an annual survey of legal malpractice insurers by insurance broker Ames & Gough reflects that while the frequency of claims against lawyers appears to remain flat year-over-year, the severity of those claims – the costs associated with their defense and resolution – continues to increase. In addition to increases in rates charged by malpractice defense counsel and an increase in claims related to cyber events – including hacking of systems used by lawyers and law firms – the survey revealed that conflicts of interest continue to be a common cause of or factor in malpractice claims. In particular, conflicts that went unresolved in connection with the hiring of lateral attorneys or mergers of practice groups or entire firms were increasingly a driver of claims in 2016.
Firms that choose to avoid investment in conflicts-related training and development and continue, according to Ames & Gough, to treat conflicts as an “afterthought,” ultimately will pay the price – literally – in the form of malpractice defense costs. U.S. law firms simply cannot afford to ignore the training and development of a conflicts staff and process – as an element of an overall risk management plan – that is sufficient to address the practices of the firm. Those functions must be even more robust if the firm is engaged in lateral hiring or foresees merger/acquisition activity.
InOutsource can help. Leveraging the experience of law firm risk management professionals that have spent years training conflicts personnel and re-engineering conflicts processes to make them more effective but also more efficient from the attorneys’ perspective, InOutsource has developed a conflicts essentials training for law firm conflicts and risk management personnel. Through the conflicts essentials program, InOutsource can train law firm conflicts staff on the fundamentals of the conflicts rules, how those rules commonly apply to their own firm’s practices – as well as to the lateral hiring and merger process – and how to ensure that conflicts are not overlooked. InOutsource can then also help in advising law firm risk management as to how to not just improve the knowledge of its existing staff, but also how to improve its processes to buck the trend of conflicts-related malpractice claims.