Clients step up action against lawyers

Practitioners around the world are taking steps to restrict their potential liability as aggrieved clients become increasingly willing to take action against their lawyers, a new report claims.

Produced by the International Bar Association's committee on insurance, Liability of lawyers and indemnity insurance charts a boom in negligence claims against lawyers in recent years.

In England and Wales claims notified by solicitors on the fund, which provides compulsory insurance, have grown by an average of almost 20 per cent each year since 1988, although the number of claims has recently decreased. In the US the number of law suits against lawyers climbs by 19 per cent each year and in the past 10 years more actions have been filed than in all previous years of US judicial history combined.

Lovell White Durrant partner John Trotter, co-author of the study, said researchers believed the increase in consumer protection legislation and the willingness of lawyers to take cases against their professional colleagues had contributed to the growth in suits.

Liability to third party claimants had also become a more prevalent problem.

“Liability for people other than your clients is a very important topic in a lot of countries right now,” said Trotter. “I was very surprised at just how many countries have liability of lawyers to third parties.”

The report says that regardless of whether the law is developed by statute or by decided cases “there are indications that the standards imposed on the profession are becoming increasingly severe”.

If the dice are becoming loaded against the lawyers in the risk of a claim being made, the odds are probably getting worse against their successfully developing a claim when one is brought, the report says.