Legal Malpractice Avoidance Tip: General Releases
A general release, while signed by a particular individual, also releases other parties from any liability stemming from the underlying matter, whether those parties are named or unnamed in the release. The effects of a release can be far-reaching and unintended and can affect the rights of the client if the release carelessly relinquishes the client’s claims against other parties. With regard to an attorney who represents the client signing the release, a general release does not usually serve as a defense to the lawyer’s own malpractice, barring informed consent undertaken with consultation with independent counsel. Courts have held that an attorney’s conduct is negligent if he or she advises a client to execute a release that relinquishes claims against potential defendants in disputes. It is advisable to avoid recommending that the client sign a general release unless the attorney is certain that the client is not inadvertently relinquishing claims. An attorney may consider informing the client of the potentially comprehensive effect of the general release as well as having the client sign a document noting that he or she has been fully informed of the general release.