Top 10

     The May issue of the California Bar Journal takes a cue from David Letterman and offers the “ Top 10 things that trigger a legal malpractice suit.
     It’s a bit mystifying.
     First off, you’re not supposed to start your list with No. 1. You start at the bottom of a Top 10 list and build the drama.
     And, quite frankly, I don’t believe the ordering anyway. “Failing to understand the law” is number 5.
     Really? Number 5?
     Not understanding laws is pretty much the definition of legal malpractice. How is that not Number 1?
     And some of the items are a tad ambiguous, if not almost impossible.
     Take Number 10: “Failing to identify someone as a client.”
     I guess I’d agree that if you’ve forgotten someone is your client, that’s probably malpractice. But what if they walk into your office in disguise? Can you be held accountable for that?
     Maybe what it means is that you’ve kept the identity of your client a secret. This is clearly malpractice – you’ll never be able to prove damages.
     Number 9 is “suing a client to collect a fee.”
     Quick aside here: Apparently, this Top Ten list was offered to a committee “contemplating” changes to the Continuing Legal Education program of the bar. (Committees are good at contemplative pursuits. Fortunately, they rarely have to do anything.)
     I agree that suing a client is often a precursor to a malpractice suit, but what is the committee supposed to do with this information? Educate lawyers not to collect their fees?
     Refraining from charging clients is a good way to keep clients satisfied.
     Number 2 is “failing to recognize substance abuse or stress.”
     By the client or in yourself? Maybe in the judge?
     If you don’t recognize that your judge is high, you won’t realize you should have brought munchies to court.
     My favorite, though, is Number 4: “Ineffective client screening.”
     If you want to avoid a malpractice suit, do not take on litigious clients. Avoid anyone interested in hiring a lawyer.
     Another Top 10: Let’s do a Top 10 list right. My favorite things in lawyer discipline reports are the “mitigations” – i.e. excuses – lawyers come up with.
     Do a musical introduction and animation in your head. Here are The 10 Ten lawyer misbehavior excuses (the best, not the most common):
     10. The dog ate my briefs.
     9. I thought the jury was ruling in my favor, not the client’s.
     8. What client?
     7. It was the summer intern.
     6. I’ve put in years of service to the community. Here’s a photo of me in an orange jumpsuit.
     5. Has anyone seen my pills?
     4. You know I’m not the only lawyer with this last name.
     3. But I couldn’t identify my client.
     2. I’m an idiot!
     And the No. 1 mitigating factor is lawyer disciplines case is … (drum roll)…
     1. Is it my fault that you guys admitted me to the bar?
     Quick Review: I know this is out of place here, but I need to vent. I just saw the new Star Trek movie and I have questions.
     There are spoilers here, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
     Why is it that the captain had to race through the Enterprise and climb through a radiation-filled duct just to kick a part into place to make the ship work?
     Did they buy this starship at Ikea?
     And if you need to beam someone down to Earth to shoot the bad guy, is the skinny communications officer in the mini-skirt really the best choice?
     This is why you should never take me to an action movie.

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