Message from the practice group chair
Welcome to the inaugural issue of ALFA’s Professional Liability Newsletter. This newsletter will focus on emerging trends and developments in malpractice claims against lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, and other non-medical professionals. ALFA’s Professional Liability Group is comprised of lawyers in every major city in the United States and abroad dedicated to serving professionals in defense of malpractice claims. Please contact Victor J. Pioli (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your comments, information, announcements, and submissions for this newsletter. Thanks to Victor for his hard work in launching this newsletter.
Joseph R. Marconi, Chairman, ALFA Int'l Professional Liability Practice Group
Managing The Risks Of Legal Malpractice Claims In California And Beyond
Has the economic climate brought new challenges to the practice of law? Not really. The challenges present in the practice of law haven’t changed over the past several years, only the need to be more vigilant in your practice. Legal filings against lawyers for the past few years overall has remained fairly steady in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, although the number of filings for the two months of this year are slightly down, as compared to this same time last year. The key to protecting your practice from claims is an increased awareness and remaining proactive.
Attorneys can do so in three ways. First, they should carefully interview prospective clients. Second, they should carefully prepare written retainer agreements and execute them. And, third, they should keep an eye on runaway receivables.
Featured Member Firm: Haight Brown & Bonesteel, LLP
Haight Brown & Bonesteel, LLP is ALFA’s member firm located in Los Angeles, CA. Haight Brown maintains a practice of more than 10 attorneys dedicated to the service of professionals in malpractice liability disputes. The firm’s professional liability group is headed by Jennifer K. Saunders and William Baumgaertner.
Haight Brown has successfully defended attorneys, accountants, design professionals, insurance professionals, and real estate brokers and agents in all manner of disputes. The firm’s ability to handle a wide array of professional liability claims is evidenced by the diversity of its professional liability group’s members. These members include a former electrical engineer who worked in the aerospace industry for 12 years, a certified public accountant, and an architecture graduate handling design and construction matters.
Can A Law Firm’s Use Of A Website To Solicit Clients And Locate Witnesses Subject It To Claims Of Defamation?
The use of websites by lawyers has grown exponentially in recent years. Many law firms maintain websites that advertise their services. Law firms also use websites as a litigation tool. Websites provide a boundless repository of information for clients and prospective clients. They also provide a convenient means to locate and reach out to potential witnesses and gather information. But could a law firm’s use of a website for such purposes potentially subject it to a claim for defamation?
For example, if a lawyer announces on a website that it is investigating a “defectively manufactured” product and looking for potential clients and witnesses with information about the product, could the law firm be sued for defamation by the manufacturer of the product for falsely labeling it “defective?” According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the answer is no.
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Are Communications With A Jury Consultant Privileged Communications?
The use of jury consultants has become increasingly prevalent in modern litigation practice. Attorneys routinely retain the services of consultants regarding trial strategy, jury selection, and witness preparation. Lawyers often assume that their communications with these consultants are privileged and non-discoverable. The law in this regard may not be so clear.
In re: Cendant Corp. Sec. Litigation, 343 F.3d 658 (3rd Cir. 2003) squarely addressed the issues of the applicability and scope afforded to a privilege between a lawyer and a client’s communications with a jury consultant. In Cendant, a former Ernst & Young senior manager was deposed and asked questions regarding communications that took place between Ernst & Young’s counsel, the senior manager, and a retained trial consultant. Counsel for Ernst & Young objected to the questions on the basis of attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine.