Back to Publications

Avoiding Malpractice Claims in a Natural Resources and Environmental Law Practice

Robert D. Reis, Ethics and Professional Responsibility in the New Millennium (2000)

Malpractice claims are a fact of life for professionals. Gone are the days when lawyers and clients had the type of close relationships that precluded consideration of filing a malpractice action. Now, even insurer clients will make claim against lawyers if they believe they can prevail and appropriately recover a portion of their losses. In the 1950s the average malpractice premium, for those few lawyers who carried coverage, was $200 to $500. Today the average is $2,000 to $8,000 depending on the limits of liability, practice specialty and claims history. By anyone's math this exceeds inflation. Policies are broader, limits are higher and the quality of protection is much improved. Nonetheless, the percentage of gross income devoted to malpractice insurance premiums is undoubtedly greater now than in the past.

This is not all bad; for vanishing too are the days when lawyers felt insolated from scrutiny of their professional lives. More than one commentator has opined that lawyers are receiving their deserved rewards in the civil justice system with which they are so familiar. Many more clients with losses are being indemnified than ever before.

What invariably develops after claims increase and losses become more expensive is an ongoing effort to prevent the losses and stem the tide of rising costs associated with malpractice claims. While not embraced by al