Communication is one of the most important parts of the attorney-client relationship. Rule of professional conduct 1.4 tells us the minimum communication necessary to abide by the rules, including: (a) A lawyer shall: (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter. One of the more painful ramifications of this for lawyers is telling our clients when mistakes have been made. This is important from an attorney ethics standpoint, but also from a malpractice avoidance standpoint. Identifying and addressing problems with cases is a good way to avoid a legal malpractice action. Avoiding a legal malpractice action is the best professional liability defense there is.
The importance of not hiding ones errors was highlighted by a recent arbitration decision in which Tom Rutter, Esquire awarded a couple more than $1 million in a legal malpractice action. The Karoly firm and lawyer Lewis Thompson, Esquire were found to have committed malpractice in missing the statute of limitations in an automobile accident action. Mr. Rutter noted that Mr. Thompson not only missed the statute of limitations, but he told his clients he had filed the papers on time and created false documents, including a false court filing stamp, to show he filed on time. Because of this, a punitive damage award was added to the compensatory damages.