chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
April 14, 2023

ABA focuses on legal malpractice issues at national conference, honors Arizona student

CHICAGO, April 14, 2023 — The nation’s top experts in lawyer liability and malpractice matters will discuss legal liability, malpractice and insurance issues at an American Bar Association conference on April 19-21 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Spring 2023 National Legal Malpractice Conference
Sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability

Wednesday-Friday, April 19-21 (all times local time)

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel
6063 Isla Verde Avenue
San Juan, Puerto Rico

The in-person only conference offers a lineup of well-known speakers who will discuss the latest developments and disruptions facing the legal profession in terms of lawyer liability and malpractice issues, and features experts in legal liability, malpractice and insurance.

Lawyer David Gerger, who has represented individual defendants in some of the highest profile U.S. criminal cases, will participate in the keynote plenary session and discuss, “Plane Crashes, Blowouts and Other Disasters: The Criminal Defense Attorney’s Role When Everyone is Looking for a Villain,” on Thursday at 8:45 a.m. His clients have included the Boeing technical pilot who was indicted in connection with the 737 MAX investigation, the BP engineer charged with manslaughter and other crimes following the Deep Water Horizon oil rig, and the CFO of Enron after the company’s collapse.

A series of panels are planned over three days as well as numerous networking activities. Other plenary programs include:

  • “Breaking Up is Hard to Do: How to Execute a Successful Lateral Firm Move” — With law firms competing in an intensive landscape, survival and the drive for growth are leading to more firm mergers and the hiring of attorneys from other firms. Most firms now say inorganic growth or lateral hiring is part of their strategy despite greater risks. The panel explores the management, fiduciary, insurance and ethical risks of entering or departing a firm and will provide tips on how to make the journey successful.
    Wednesday, 4:15-5:30 p.m.
  • “Nuclear Verdicts for Lawyers: We are not Immune” — Lawyers haven’t been as frequent a target as other professions who face major risks, such as “nuclear” verdicts that typically range upward of $10 million. However, lawyers are at the center of representing defendants who are frequently targeted in these huge cases. The session will discuss what is at the heart of nuclear verdicts and examine risk management and trial strategies that can help mitigate the risk of a runaway verdict.
    Thursday, 10-11 a.m.
  • “Defusing the Ticking Time Bomb of a Policy Limit Demand While Avoiding Bad Faith and a Big Hit” — In the lawyers’ professional liability world, there are few tactics more disquieting than a policy limit demand — made decidedly more consequential when transmitted early in a case or harnessed with an egregiously short deadline for acceptance. While the classic playbook set up by plaintiff’s counsel may not be preventable, there are ways to navigate the situation to avoid bad faith and legal malpractice exposure. The experts in this panel sort through the myriad of precarious issues and explore a practices roadmap on how to defuse the powder keg.
    Friday 9–10:15 a.m.
  • “UPL: Anachronism or Necessary Regulation?” — Unauthorized practice of law (UPL) rules have long prevented lawyers from systematically and continuously practicing in states where they are not admitted. Now, there is a movement to revise Model Rule 5.5 to allow a lawyer, licensed in any state, to more easily cross state lines to practice. Advocates reason that changes in law practice, the new remote work environment and technological advances all require modernization in lawyer regulation. Still, professional liability insurers raise concerns of an uptick in claims as lawyers practicing in jurisdictions where they are not licensed might err as a result of unfamiliarity with local law. The panel looks at what the future holds for UPL and regulation.
    Friday, 10:30–11:45 a.m.

Also, during the conference the standing committee will present the Edward C. Mendrzycki Award to Timothy Basista, a student at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix. The award carries a $5,000 stipend, in addition to expenses. It is named after Edward (Ed) Mendrzycki, who was an integral member of the standing committee and served as its chair from 2001 to 2004. Contestants wrote an essay on the ethical and professional liability concerns that arise when a law firm partner represents a client in several business and real estate matters, and the law firm is contacted by the Department of Justice to assist in a money laundering investigation involving the client.

The full conference brochure, including the schedule, is here, and a list of speakers and their bios are here.

Media are welcome to attend the conference but must register in advance by Tuesday 5 p.m. EDT, April 18, by emailing [email protected].

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.