Why do attorney malpractice insurers require a backup attorney for solo practitioners?
About once a quarter we get a call from a solo attorney’s staff that the attorney is incapacitated. The last call that I took from a paralegal who stated that the attorney had been in the hospital for a month and will be there for another couple of months. This in of itself is a terrible situation for all involved. The call prompted by our follow up for the attorney malpractice renewal application.
Solo attorneys need to remember that they are running a small business. Employees and bills need to be paid. The mundane reporting that businesses need to do to meet local, state, and federal requirements continue regardless. In addition, they have dependents and clients that that depend on them.
An attorney’s obligations to clients and the courts are not terminated due to retirement, incapacity or even death. Not all issues to an attorney’s incapacity are related to old age. We live in an unpredictable world. Attorneys need plans in place to meet unpredictable events before they happen. This begins with having a backup attorney designated to cover.
In addition, as the boomer generation continues to get older, succession-planning becomes even more important. Failure to plan for a successful transitioning of open matters, including a process for designating a backup attorney to address deadlines and court appearances, can lead to malpractice claims.
The last thing in the world that the conscientious attorney wants is having staff and dependents struggling to deal with not only the loss of the attorney, but suddenly thrust into the business of the law firm, clients and court obligations without preparation or a plan.
This requirement forces the attorney to deal with the unthinkable.
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Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
Managing Director, CEO
(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080