Don’t Hunker Down, Team Up

It has been a while since I’ve had guest bloggers on CounseltoCounsel; but I was contacted by Jim Rhyner, Worldwide Lawyers Professional Liability Insurance Product Manager for Chubb Insurance, and he expressed an interest in presenting some malpractice avoidance tips to my readers.

While many of the other would-be guests who contact me have clearly never read this blog, Jim seems to have some very good ideas to contribute (on themes that relate to attorney marketing and careers). So here is his first post:

The current economy has resulted in many empty offices at law firms. Layoffs impact a firm in a multitude of ways, including effects on remaining attorneys – many of whom live in fear of the proverbial “pink slip.” In addition to contributing to a tense workplace atmosphere, my colleagues and I have seen anxiety over job security translate into more tangible economic risks, particularly when:

1. Attorneys hesitate to share a problem or reach out to colleagues for fear of appearing incapable or

2. Attorneys take on a broader scope of work than their experience would normally dictate

Given the increased pressure on legal professionals, it isn’t a surprise that many act upon the instinct to “turtle” in tough times: keeping their work close to the vest, fiercely guarding client relationships, and making an effort to fly under the radar of the senior partners. An attorney (or any professional) in a high-pressure situation tends to become paralyzed when faced with a problem of his or her own making. When that person fails to enlist the help of another individual or department who may be better qualified to handle an issue, things can get sticky and liability exposures are more likely to occur.

Secondly, attorneys who take on an increased workload without senior managers’ knowledge may create a potentially costly exposure. Take for example an associate at a mid-size law firm who’s been working with a client to close a commercial transaction. As the project progresses, it builds in complexity and the associate takes on more work, increasing the firm’s potential liability exposure far greater than originally anticipated, particularly given the associate’s experience level. If management isn’t aware of this situation until a claim occurs, the firm could face unanticipated liability with an exposure well in excess of the limits of the firm’s liability policy.

The reality is, even in tough times, teamwork and insight from an experienced partner can solve just about any problem – but only if someone is brave enough to ask for help.

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