Used to be that large firm incompetence was another dirty little secret in the bar. I don’t mean to imply that large firm lawyers are less competent than solos, because that’s not the case. My point is that incompetence and unethical conduct runs evenly throughout the bar, from top to bottom, with any lawyers capable of misteps. And now, the rest of the bar and clients are starting to realize this, as evidenced by this article, Lawyer vs. Lawyer Becoming Common Corporate Strategy.
The article suggests that conflict of interest and corporate scandals like Enron explain the increased trend in legal malpractice claims against large firms. And the article also notes that disciplinary boards are less likely to go after large firms, thereby opening the door for malpractice as the only option.
But on top of these factors, with the money that large firms charge – upwards of $600-$800 an hour for top attorneys, they can’t expect to remain immune from suits. And there’s yet another reason that explains this trend. I think that like doctors who lack a “good bedside manner” are more vulnerable to lawsuits, so are attorneys. For attorneys lack of good bedside manner means poor client service – a problem that is significant enough to have spawned several blogs on that topic (see, e.g., In Search of Perfect Client Service, What About Clients, Non-billable Hour and others) Lawyers need to realize that there’s a greater cost to poor service than simply loss of the client. It can mean increased exposure for malpractice suits as well.