When Lawyers Screw Up
26 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2019 Last revised: 7 May 2019
Date Written: February 1, 2019
This essay reviews Herbert Kritzer and Neil Vidmar’s book, When Lawyers Screw Up: Improving Access To Justice For Legal Malpractice Victims, which examines legal malpractice in the United States including, inter alia, its prevalence, the nature of claims, their resolution and cost, the market for legal malpractice insurance, and the challenges and economics of legal malpractice litigation. The essay focuses particular attention on the authors’ findings that many individuals are unable to obtain redress when their lawyers cause them harm. This is due, in part, to the difficulty of proving lawyer malpractice claims, and to the fact that the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions do not require lawyers to carry malpractice insurance. As a result, it is virtually impossible for a malpractice victim to find a lawyer who will bring a lawsuit against an uninsured lawyer or to recover damages even when they are awarded. The essay considers why only two states require lawyers to maintain malpractice insurance. The answer reveals a common problem with lawyer regulation, which is that courts often defer to lawyers’ interests rather than promote the interests of the public. The essay discusses some of the solutions the authors propose to address this access to justice problem. It also suggests some additional ways to increase access to justice for victims of lawyer malpractice, including through an expanded role for lawyer discipline systems.
Keywords: Legal Profession, Professional Responsibility, Malpractice, Insurance
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