Practice Management Strategies Part 18 Opinion Letters and Peer Review
Understand the high-hazard nature of opinion letters – A lawyer who issues an opinion letter may be placed in a precarious situation in the sense that the issuance of an opinion letter could place the lawyer in the position of effectively being a guarantor that a certain situation exists. If it turns out that the actual situation is different from the opinion put forth by the lawyer, the potential for a professional liability claim exists.
Certain types of opinion letters are more hazardous from a professional liability standpoint than others. The rule of thumb is that the more money it will cost if the opinion is wrong, the higher the hazard of issuing that particular opinion letter.
For example, if a securities lawyer issues an opinion that a certain securities offering is exempt from registration, the company that the offering was made on goes bankrupt, and it is subsequently determined that the opinion that the offering was exempt was erroneous, a massive professional liability claim most likely will result.
Beware of clients who try to “shift the burden” of liability to the lawyer by pressuring the lawyer to issue a certain opinion letter, all the while intending to “turn” on the lawyer if the opinion turns out to be erroneous.
Such a client may pressure an environmental lawyer to issue an opinion letter to the effect that a particular property is environmentally “compliant.”
Such a client request should be turned down, since there is no way to know for certain, absent a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency, whether a particular site is “compliant” or not.
Use formal and informal peer review as your single most powerful risk management tool – The formal and informal peer review process is the most valuable risk management tool there is. The reason for this is that every lawyer in your firm can be on guard for any situation in your firm which is deficient or presents an unacceptable risk level.
All lawyers and staff should be encouraged to surface any issue which may need to be addressed. Beware of the rogue lawyer – Some law firms have gotten into serious trouble due to the actions of an individual rogue or “lone ranger” lawyer. Usually, the trouble has come from the rogue lawyer taking on troubled clients or getting involved in ill-advised business deals unbeknownst to the other partners until it is too late.
This type of lawyer tends to be very secretive, and usually works “behind closed doors.” The use of appropriate management controls, systems and procedures, and peer review processes can help to eliminate this dynamic.
Disclaimer: “Perspectives” is published as a service to lawyers. While the information contained herein is believed to be reliable, readers are advised to consult their own legal and insurance counsel for assistance in applying it to their unique situations.
The Average American Spends 18 Years in Retirement!
Article courtesy of Cavignac & Associates’ Employee Benefits Department
Tips to Help You Prepare
1. Know Your Retirement Needs — Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you’ll need about 70% of your pre-retirement income – lower earners, 90% or more – to maintain your standard of living when you stop working.
2. Find Out About Your Social Security Benefits — Social Security pays the average retiree about 40% of preretirement earnings. Find out more about your benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov.
3. Contribute to a Tax-Sheltered Savings Plan — If your employer offers a tax-sheltered savings plan, such as a 401(k), sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. If your employer does not have a plan, open an individual retirement account.
4. Don’t Touch Your Savings — Don’t dip into your retirement savings. You’ll lose principal and interest, and you may lose tax benefits. If you change jobs, roll over your savings directly into an IRA or your new employer’s retirement plan.
5. Start Now, Set Goals, and Stick to Them — Start early. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving. So start now, whatever your age!
2007 FOCUS Seminars for You or Your Clients
Cavignac & Associates’ FOCUS Room Bank of America Plaza 450 B Street, 18th Floor, San Diego, CA
- The HR SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 — 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
- Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Satisfies requirements for AB1825 Training
Friday, September 21, 2007 — 9:00 am to 11:00 am
All training sessions available to our clients Seating is limited – Reserve early!
For more information about upcoming seminars: Visit our Web site at http://www.cavignac.com/home.html – Contact Bethany Mongold e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 619-744-0540