ABA study looks at malpractice claim trends

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability has issued its latest in a series of quadrennial studies of the state of the U.S. and Canadian legal malpractice claim trends.

“Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2012–2015,” first released in 1985, has tracked legal malpractice claims as reported by participating carriers for 30 years.

The data analysis provides attorneys and insurance analysts an in-depth look at both current trends as well as comparisons to historical data collected from the participating legal malpractice insurance carriers.

Data included in the “Profile” is voluntarily provided to the ABA by eight commercial legal malpractice insurance carriers and 18 insurance company members of the National Association of Bar Related Insurance Companies, five of which are Canadian.

The study examines the following categories of carrier data: number of claims by area of law; number of claims by number of attorneys in firm; number of claims by type of activity; number of claims by disposition of claim; number of claims by type of alleged error; number of claims by expense paid; number of claims by indemnity dollars paid to claimant; total dollars paid; time interval from error to closing of file; time interval from opening of file to closing of file.

At the same time, the “Profile” provides observations and insights from industry professionals and practitioners reflecting on the results of the data survey and their own experiences.

“The picture painted by the latest ‘Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims’ shows an industry that has emerged from an economic recession, which had produced a surge in real estate-related claims, but for which those claims are now subsiding,” said Shari Klevens, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers Professional Liability.

Klevens said the information also shows “growing estate, trust and probate claims, likely due to rising numbers of retiring baby boomers and disputes over the estates of aging families.”

The analysis, she said, provides “a fascinating snapshot of claims trends that reflect the larger social and economic conditions in society. It is a must-read for all practitioners and professionals and anyone else with an interest in professional liability claims.”