Denver Bar Association
September 2003
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From the Headlands: Legal malpractice and the big bad wolf

by Paul Gordon

 1

You never really think your clients are as smart as you until they sue you for malpractice. Only then do you realize they made all of their decisions on their own. I prosecute legal malpractice claims because I believe legitimate legal malpractice claims must be brought to maintain the integrity of the judicial system. Moreover, victims of legal malpractice suffer from profound disorientation, as if they just learned green has always meant stop. In our daily lives, we take for granted our ability to hire a lawyer if we really get in trouble, but when our lawyer makes a mistake, we flounder for direction. Legal malpractice claims have three parts: mistakes, damages, and willing clients. It’s the last part lawyers forget. You can’t talk your clients out of suing you, but you can talk them into suing you. Start by delivering bad news in a letter and then going on vacation. Remind them of all the times you covered yourself in a letter. When you are sure your clients do not understand what went wrong, send them a bill and stop taking their calls. You don’t need to help your clients understand and cope with bad results. I’ll do it for you.

2

You knew the big bad wolf was going to try to blow the brick house down. It was obvious. He had just taken out a house made of hay and a house made of sticks. It was natural for him to think he could take out the bricks. Nobody said the moral of the story was to know your limitations. Nobody ate the three little pigs, either. What did the pigs learn? That even if your house blows down, you can just go running down the street. What’s an honest wolf to do; hire a lawyer? Those little swine aren’t coming out because some lawyer is outside huffing and puffing. The only way they’re coming out is if life is worse inside the house.


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