Legal Malpractice Tip: Year-End Wrap-up
It’s the end of the year. Many of the litigators are probably wrapping up those cases that have been ready to close but just haven’t for one reason or another. Transactional attorneys may also be in a final push to get the closing documents finalized and signed. It’s fine to take some time and enjoy the holidays. But you should also consider how you can begin the new year in a way that might help make your year, and many more, a bit less complicated.
I recommend taking a look at your form fee letter to make the following changes if applicable:
- Limit the possibility that non-clients will sue you for malpractice. Include a clause in your fee letter along these lines:
“This Agreement is not intended to confer upon any person other than the parties hereto any rights or remedies hereunder.” This is especially useful in the context of estate planning where it is more common to have claims made by dissatisfied beneficiaries.
- Delete gratuitous promises to “provide all services in a professional and competent manner,” or “to perform all work required to properly represent you in this matter…” You already owe the client a duty of care once the relationship is formed. There is no need to enshrine it in your fee letter. If you do so, you might be setting yourself up for a four year statute of limitations under contract rather than the two year tort statute.
- Include clauses which require the parties to submit fee disputes to a fee dispute resolution committee. Make this binding. It may help you avoid counterclaims for malpractice when trying to collect an unpaid fee. The general wisdom still stands that you should wait two years from the end of representation before you sue a client for fees.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t be shy to send me an email or give me a call. I’m always happy to talk.
Attorney at Law
Gibson & Perkins, P.C.
100 West Sixth Street, Suite 204
Media, PA 19063
(610) 565-1708 ext. 106