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Would it make sense for an attorney to leave a law firm to avoid a potential legal malpractice claim?

West Orange, NJ |

My former attorney botched my personal injury case and scores of attorneys have agreed, but are intimidated and reluctant to go against a big law firm.

After consulting with a few attorneys, I realized that these attorneys were contacting my previous attorney. This gave him advanced notice that I am actively seeking counsel to pursue this matter. I recently found out that he has left this law firm and gone into private practice.

ASSUMING this was no mere coincidence that he left the firm, would a move like this benefit or harm an attorney? How would malpractice insurance play into all of this?

From what I've gathered so far, attorney's insurance vastly differs in terms of how and if they will pay a claim. After leaving a firm, some attorneys may lose that coverage, extend limited coverage, or self insure (or not). I know this is totally unrelated, but when making claims to my medical insurance company, claims must be submitted usually within a year or so from the date of service. Although the time during which the malpractice occurred is substantial (I am within SOL for filing), my concern is that the law firm's insurer may not pay out after a certain amount of time has passed since the attorney left the firm. Am I making much ado about nothing?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. It should not have any legal effect for you. If you have a viable claim there is an action against both the attorney and the firm, he was with at the time.

  2. It should not matter, because at the time of the alleged malpractice, if he was an agent, servant, and/or employee of the firm they may have vicarious liability. If he was with a big firm, they should have plenty of insurance coverage.

  3. The move won't affect his liability or that of his firm, but it may effect the question of malpractice insurance coverage. I'd want to learn a little more about the underlying case and the circumstances surrounding the attorney's departure.

  4. My colleagues have provided you good information. Let me address your issue about lawyers being intimidated with the prospect of going against a big law firm. As a general proposition, nobody cares about the size of the opponent if the case is strong enough. I've sued the IRS in an employment matter and have sued the state of New Jersey several times. The size of the target doesn't matter if you have a sharp enough arrow. Good luck.

    A response to a question posted on Avvo is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is informational only. Allan E. Richardson, Esq. Richardson, Galella & Austermuhl 142 Emerson ST., Woodbury, NJ 08096 856-579-7045.

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