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Published byApril Ferguson Modified over 7 years ago
Chapter Seven Competence In this chapter, you will learn about: Definitions of lawyer and paralegal competence Key components of competence for paralegals Sanctions for incompetence Trends in malpractice Avoiding malpractice Factors in the work environment that affect competence
Definition of Competence Legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation Reasonable diligence and promptness Communication with clients to keep them informed about the status of their matters, to comply with reasonable requests for information, and to explain matters so that clients can make informed decisions
Malpractice Improper conduct in the performance of duties by a professional, either intentionally or through negligence
Most Common Bases for Malpractice Claims Substantive incompetence Management incompetence Poor communication skills and practices Fee misunderstandings Substance abuse and stress
Advice for Avoiding Malpractice Suits Use carefully drafted letters of engagement as well as letters terminating or declining representation Clients should be selected carefully Lawyers and clients should enter into complete and well-drafted fee agreements for each representation Clients should be charged reasonable fees that are in accord with fee agreements Clients’ phone calls and e-mails should be returned promptly Page 1 of 4
Advice for Avoiding Malpractice Suits (continued) Lawyers and paralegals should listen to clients carefully and try to understand their goals and expectations Lawyers should exercise independent judgment on clients’ behalf and should respect clients’ decisions Lawyers and paralegals should be scrupulous in the handling of clients’ funds Lawyers and paralegals should know the limits of their competence and should seek guidance and consultation when in doubt about how to proceed on a matter. Page 2 of 4
Advice for Avoiding Malpractice Suits (continued) If a client asks for advice or help in an unsettled area of law, lawyers should be sure that the client understands that the advice or actions are not based on clear, well- defined law. Lawyers and paralegals must honor rules on conflicts of interest, by maintaining good records of the matters they have worked on, conducting meticulous conflicts checks, and carefully following related rules on accepting matters, protecting client confidentiality, and adhering strictly to ethical screens. Slide 3 of 4
Advice for Avoiding Malpractice Suits (continued) Lawyers should create a firm culture that is characterized by high ethical standards, including promoting quality work, knowing and following ethics rules and high levels of performance, identifying and addressing problems that may lead to substandard work, and supporting continuing education of lawyers, paralegals, and staff. Finally, law firms should have good management systems and well-trained personnel in place Slide 4 of 4
Attorney Review This is the responsibility of supervising attorneys to review work of paralegals.
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