The Old Man’s Words of Wisdom

By William G. Schwab


When you first start practicing, you think you know nothing and that everyone will sue you for incompetence. Actually, if you follow a few simple rules and practices throughout your career, you can avoid claims.

Simply put, treat your clients as you would wish to be treated if you were a client. Know your limitations. It’s okay to say you don’t know or that you don’t have the experience to take the case. Refer it to someone who does.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Malpractice has developed this checklist:

Top Ten Malpractice Traps

  1. Missed deadlines
  2. Stress and substance abuse
  3. Poor client relations
  4. Ineffective client screening
  5. Inadequate research and investigation
  6. Conflicts of interest/matter
  7. Inappropriate involvement in client matters
  8. Lack of adequate documentation of work
  9. Zealous efforts to collect fees
  10. Turning a blind eye to the threat of malpractice

With good work practices and some luck, you may never be sued, but as with everything else, prevention is far easier than a cure.

—William G. Schwab, GPSolo New Lawyer Editor
(an old man who is celebrating over 25 years as a general practice lawyer)

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