How to Prevent the Leading Cause of Malpractice Claims

By Anna Fatima Costa

Are you still using Outlook, spreadsheets or hand-written “cheat sheets” to track crucial calendar deadlines? It’s time to seriously evaluate your processes.

On March 22, 2017, Joseph C. Scott, J.D. spoke at a BASF CLE titled Calendaring as a Risk Management Strategy. Scott is a California licensed attorney, author, and recognized legal technology and risk management expert and consultant who speaks regularly throughout the country about the power of innovative software and internet-based solutions for law firms. He shared the following facts at the seminar:

  • Calendar-related errors continue to be the leading cause of malpractice claims.
  • There were over 5,000 substantive court rule changes in 2016.
  • Small firms are most vulnerable.

Challenges

When rules change, managing the volume of details can be confusing due to multiple changes to crucial deadlines and hearing dates. If you don’t keep informed or update your software, you are at risk.

The numbers show that small firms make more errors. Yet some attorneys believe: “Well, this is how we’ve always done it, and we haven’t been burned yet.” However, the fact that you have avoided malpractice claims up until now is no guarantee you will be safe in the future.

Solutions

Technology is “the great equalizer” when it comes to risk management, and there are several relatively inexpensive options now available.

Yet technology alone is not enough. You need great people, consistent training, and clear guidelines.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Lawyer’s Professional Liability states that attorneys are ethically bound to keep up with technology and exercise reasonable knowledge and skill of relevant technology in order to reduce risk for malpractice.

“Redundant Systems” vs. “Independent Redundancy”

The distinction is important. “Redundant systems” refer to use of smartphones, iPads, or forms of duplication, while “independent redundancy” refers to a separate person or separate software that calculates the actual deadlines. Review your malpractice insurance policy to identify how your firm is required to docket and calendar to insure you are not at risk.

The Biggest Impact to Your Workflow?

Calendaring file review dates. Technology is more efficient than the “old school” method of writing the next hearing or filing date on the outside of files to remember to review them within the next 30, 60 or 90 days to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks.

#1 Predictor of Long-Term Success and Viability

According to the ABA, the greatest predictor of law firms’ long-term success and viability is client satisfaction, not how brilliant their attorneys are or how hard they work. Good calendaring technology can be used to improve client satisfaction, which improves long-term viability.

If “the Cloud” is Already Old News, What is the “New” News?

Internet of Things (IoT). Years ago, lawyers laughed when told at a legal tech conference that email would be the primary method of communicating with clients. Many reacted the same way two years ago when futurists predicted that the IOT will dramatically change the way attorneys practice law over the next decade.

It’s time to stop laughing and take action.

About the author:

Ana Fatima Costa, RPR, CSR is BASF’s Paralegal Section marketing coordinator. She spent her career as a freelance court and deposition reporter, office manager and sales executive to educate the legal community about court reporters’ crucial role as impartial guardians of the record. Contact her at ana@anafatimacosta.com.