Legal Ethics

Real Estate Now Tops Legal Malpractice Claims List, ABA-Published Study Shows

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For the first time, real estate matters are now the most-frequent subject of malpractice claims against lawyers, a new study has found.

Results of a 2008-2011 survey of 53,000 insurance claims were announced Thursday by the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability in conjunction with the National Legal Malpractice Conference in Chicago. In previous studies dating back to 1985, plaintiff’s personal injury matters were the biggest generator of malpractice claims.

The committee “has provided a one-of-a-kind, detailed overview of legal malpractice claims,” said ABA President Laurel Bellows in a press release about the study report. It can be purchased on the ABA’s website.

The report, she continued, “will give law firm risk managers, lawyers practicing in the field and legal malpractice insurers valuable insights into the areas of law, types of activity and other variables that give rise to malpractice claims.”

A trend toward an increase in legal malpractice claims in real estate matters was first observed in the study in 2007. “The authors believe that failed real estate (and other business) transactions likely were the source of increased claims in the 2011 Study, but it would be a leap to state that is definitively so based on the data,” according to the report.

The activity most likely to generate claims was “preparation, filing, and transmittal of documents.” In the No. 2 slot was “Advice.”

When looking at expenses relating to paid claims, there was a general decline in the number of low-dollar claims being paid, of $5,000 or less, but an increase in higher-dollar claims, the report stated.

Last updated at 10:26 a.m. to add a link to the release and more detail from the report.

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