Real Estate Matters Top List of Legal Malpractice Claims in New ABA Survey

Real estate, personal injury-plaintiff and family law are the top three areas in the “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011,” released today by the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability. It is the first time that insurers reported a higher percentage of claims involving real estate than any other area of law in this survey, first conducted in 1985. In all five previous versions of the survey dating to 1985, personal injury-plaintiff matters were No. 1 in generating lawyer malpractice claims.

Eleven member insurers of the National Association of Bar-Related Insurance Companies (link:NABRICO) from the United States and nine from Canada (including link:LAWPRO) contributed data to the study, along with eight commercial insurance companies. Insurers provided data on 53,000 claims for the 2011 study, the most ever.

The prominence of real estate matters in the current survey continues a trend observed in the 2007 study, which revealed an increase in the percentage of claims in that area. The authors believe that failed real estate (and other business) transactions likely were the source of increased claims in the 2011 Study.

The study presents data on number of claims by area of law, number of lawyers in the firm, type of activity, disposition of claim, type of alleged error, indemnity dollars paid to claimant and other categories. The study found that the type of activity most likely to generate claims was “preparation, filing, and transmittal of documents,” retaining its No. 1 position from previous years. “Advice” moved up to become the second-most-likely reported activity to generate claims.

Of the individual errors generating claims in this edition of the study, “failure to file a document–no deadline” showed a steep decline in its share of all errors, dropping from its second-place position in the 2007 study to the bottom third percentage of all individual errors.

This study relies on self-reporting from the legal malpractice insurers that participate in the survey, so it is not a comprehensive review of all malpractice claims against all lawyers, but does provide some insights into the common malpractice errors and high- and low-risk practices.

The link:”Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011″ can be ordered through the ABA Web Store or by calling 800-285-2221, requesting product code 4140045.

For a limited time, accredited news writers may access the study online by contacting Ira Pilchen, ira.pilchen@americanbar.org.

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