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Malpractice and Liability at Heart of Professionalism Session

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Front row, from left: Susan Tarbe, William Robinson, Dean Janet Stearns, Elizabeth Honkonen, Nancy Stuparich. Back row, from left: Alex Hoy, Charles Hubley, Kenneth Rosen, Justin Lee, Meghan Weinstein, Brian Spiro, Amanda LeCheminant, Emily Smith, Gregory Hernandez, Justin Levine, Professor Anthony Alfieri.

Front row, from left: Susan Tarbe, William Robinson, Dean Janet Stearns, Elizabeth Honkonen, Nancy Stuparich. Back row, from left: Alex Hoy, Charles Hubley, Kenneth Rosen, Justin Lee, Meghan Weinstein, Brian Spiro, Amanda LeCheminant, Emily Smith, Gregory Hernandez, Justin Levine, Professor Anthony Alfieri. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Malpractice is a word that no attorney ever wants to hear. It is also a growing practice area in law and an increasingly important field of study.

There are many interests at stake in the matter of lawyers' liability, and the University of Miami School of Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service offers a variety of opportunities for lawyers and law students to help educate the legal community about professional responsibility and ethics, as well as legal malpractice issues that could arise. The law school also offers courses aimed at cultivating professionalism and dedication to ethics in the legal community.

Last week, students in Professor Anthony V. Alfieri's Professional Liability and Legal Malpractice class hosted a seminar with practitioners in legal malpractice insurance, corporate law and ethics. Speakers shared their experiences and provided students with practical advice on how to avoid committing legal malpractice or violating the rules of professional responsibility.

The discussion covered a wide range of topics, from the increasing use of technology in modern legal practice to the factors that determine an attorney's legal malpractice insurance premium.

"For me, one of most valuable lessons I learned from the discussion was how crucial it is to take careful, well thought-out risk prevention measures in every aspect of your legal life," said Emily Smith, 3L. "Preventing professional liability and legal malpractice claims isn't as simple as just 'not lying to your client' and making sure your file cabinet is locked at night."

The student-led dialogue included practical issues relevant to student law clerks and new attorneys, such as preventative measures for avoiding professional liability and legal malpractice exposure, confidentiality issues with e-discovery and electronic communications, among others. Most importantly, the event brought a real-life perspective the study of professional liability.

"Legal malpractice is an area of law that can affect every single one of us, yet it is often overlooked," said Amanda LeCheminant, 2L. "It was really eye opening to hear the speakers share some of their personal experiences."

Meghan Weinstein, 3L, said she had previously not known how common malpractice claims were. "The panelists opened my eyes and made me realize that this is the reality of our profession," she said, "and that we must be prepared!"