General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter



Why Do People Sue Their Lawyers

By Jenice R. Robinson

People sue when they think their lawyers miss real estate encumbrances, negotiate bad settlements, have conflicts of interest, fail to calendar an item properly, or procrastinate, to name a few.

That information comes from the 1996 ABA-NABRICO (National Association of Bar-Related Insurance Companies) study, still the definitive source on legal malpractice in the United States, which updated an earlier 1986 ABA study.

Overall, insurers found only modest and incremental increases in the number of claims and their value over that 10-year period. The biggest jump came in the area of business transactions, possibly due to the fact that new laws and regulations often make an already complex business transaction even more complicated—and ripe for client complaints. Real estate practice remains a high-risk area, but there was a noticeable drop in claims.

One thing both studies found: there is a correlation between how well the economy is doing and the number of legal malpractice claims. There are fewer claims in good times.

These are the top ten malpractice claims by area of practice from both studies:

Study results are based on claims reported to insurance companies by insured lawyers. The 1996 study is based primarily on data from bar-related insurance companies, which typically do not insure large firms. The 1996 study is most relevant to solo practitioners and small firms.

Jenice R. Robinson is a writer in downstate Illinois.

Category: 1986 1996 Personal Injury-Plaintiff: 25.08 21.65 % Real Estate: 23.29 14.35 % Business Transactions: 3.04 10.66 % Family Law: 7.88 9.13 %       Corporation/Business Organization: 5.32 8.87 % Collection and Bankruptcy: 10.49 7.91 % Estate, Tax and Probate 6.97 7.59 % Criminal: 3.34 3.82 % Workers’ Compensation: 2.14 3.30 % Personal Injury-Defense: 3.22 3.27 %



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