Triple Play is a weekly NJBIZ feature that asks top executives in New Jersey to talk about three things related to their industry.
Ronald Israel is a member of the litigation and professional malpractice group of law firm Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi. He also serves as the firm’s general counsel.
We asked Ronald for three ways solo practitioner attorneys can ensure they are properly serving their clients and steering clear of professional malpractice suits:
Don’t be overzealous in your client intake. It’s necessary to exercise discretion when evaluating potential clients, because most ‘problematic’ clients will give off early warning signs. Before accepting a client, see if there are any red flags, including clients that previously retained another law firm and those that insist on paying in cash.
Be wary of co-mingling funds. The majority of ethics violation cases against solo practitioners relate to the stringent requirements associated with handling client escrow and other financial accounts. There are numerous court rules and rules of professional conduct that deal with handling of client funds, including restrictions on co-mingling client accounts with your operating account or with other client accounts.
Be judicious in utilizing social media. LinkedIn is a great networking tool for anyone who is not a lawyer. For attorneys, social media platforms are rife with landmines. One of LinkedIn’s features allows users to list their areas of expertise, but lawyers can’t refer to themselves as experts unless they have been formally certified. LinkedIn groups also can have negative ramifications, as a simple piece of advice could create an unwitting attorney-client relationship.