Lawyer Professional Liability: Avoiding Pro Bono Mistakes
For many of your large law firm clients, pro bono work can be extremely satisfying. Not only does it have the ability to enhance the reputation for the firm and develop strong public partnerships, it also adds value to the firm’s corporate social responsibility policy and can help build morale and teamwork amongst the firm’s staff internally. For many lawyers, doing a little work for free means gaining new, paying clients.
The important thing for lawyers to remember about doing pro bono work, however, is that things can head downhill fast when providing free services, if they are not careful. Not only does pro bono work have the potential to leave an independent lawyer with too little billable hours for their clients willing to pay, it has the potential create lawyer professional liability risks as well.
About.com consulting expert Shannon Belew offers the following tips to follow to avoid common pro bono mistakes.
Don’t take on too many pro bono clients. Your client could find themselves quickly overwhelmed by doing so. If a pro bono case becomes difficult, or more time consuming than your client expected, they unfortunately may not withdraw from the case, with very limited exceptions. The good news is that your client can be specific about what types of pro bono cases they will and will not accept.
Don’t start a project without defining the scope of work. Just as your client would do for a paying client, they need to develop a scope of work that their client agrees with, so that both parties understand what is expected. This scope should define the issue being resolved, which services are being provided, and what the expectations are for successful completion.
Don’t work without a specified completion date. Unfortunately, legal cases might go on longer than intended, for various reasons. Still though, your client is within their rights to specify a certain amount of time that their services will be available for.
Don’t accept work without a clear mutual benefit. The lawyer’s client is clearly benefiting from pro bone work, by having their case tried for free. However, your client needs to benefit as well. Potential advantages of pro bono work include referrals, testimonial, free advertising, access to a customer database, and more.
Don’t give in to demanding pro bono clients. While your legal clients should also perform their job ethically and to the best of their abilities, it’s important that they understand the bulk of their time and attention should be focused towards their paying clients. If a pro bono client has growing demands and increasingly urgent requests, that’s the ideal time to renegotiate the agreement and make them a paying client.
AFPD has over 20 years of professional liability program management and claims handling experience, including over a decade of experience underwriting a Lawyer Professional Liability Insurance Program. For more information, please contact us today at (800) 970-9778.