Now there is a brilliant title, right? Obviously, any client who sues for malpractice (or even files a grievance with the state bar), is probably not going to hire you again. Not to mention how many people they will bad mouth you to. Okay, so that is pretty darn obvious. But stay with me a minute.

Last year around this time, I did a post about poor client communications being the most common reason grievances are filed against lawyers with state bars. And I pointed out that such lack of communication with clients is just baffling from a marketing perspective.

Well, it seems that the lack of communication is also the "number one cause of malpractice claims” according to Dan Pinnington, practice management advisor with Lawyer’s Professional Indemnity Company in Toronto, in an article that appears on Attorney at Work. He goes on to give his top 10 tips “for avoiding a malpractice claim.” They include: getting the assignment in writing and money up front; managing client expectations; documenting everything of importance; sending periodic and final reporting letters; never suing for fees (only gets you a counterclaim for malpractice); and going with your gut when it says to not take on a matter.

Additionally, he recommends several tips to avoid claims that are near and dear to my heart, and are really, really just plain smart from a business development standpoint. They are:

  • Meeting or beating deadlines. For obvious reasons, but also because it is a good way to turn clients into raving fans;
  • Avoiding surprises. Amen! Don’t surprise clients about anything, especially the bill, but really anything that might annoy them to the point of causing dissatisfaction with your services; and
  • Seeking feedback. Asking clients how you/firm is doing at any stage of the matter is a good idea. It shows you care about whether they are receiving value and happy with your representation. Good for follow-on business and referrals.

Not only should you avoid the things that can lead to claims, especially when they are not even close to being malpractice, but rather, just poor marketing practices.

  • All of these recommendations are great and what they really come down to is communication. Just like with any relationship you have in life, communication is key to its success. If there is a problem or an issue, don’t avoid it; talk it out. Make sure that everyone’s on the same page. If the client realizes that you’re making that effort, they may go a step further and give you favorable reviews online, visit your website, tell their friends about your sites, and increase your online presence as well.