Notifications of claims against solicitors went up during lockdown, according to research by international brokers Marsh, as firms are warned that home working could lead to more professional mistakes.
Between 24 March and 3 August 2020, a sample of 28 large and medium sized firms generated 82 claims notifications, compared with 68 during the same period last year. Marsh’s study found that private client work and real estate saw particularly sharp increases, while notifications concerning dispute resolution were down.
During a webinar held by City firm DAC Beachcroft, Marsh said the figures are ‘statistically significant’ and point to a number of emerging trends.
Catrin Davies, a partner at DAC Beachcroft who specialises in defending claims against solicitors, predicted that the wills and probate sector will see ‘a lot more claims’ as a result of Covid-19.
‘At the beginning of lockdown, private client practitioners were extremely busy with people who didn’t have wills, and those who had wills wanting to change [them]…That will inevitably lead to some mistakes.’
She added that the government’s intention to legalise remote witnessing could also cause problems. ‘There will be issues coming in around whether people use electronic signatures, which obviously are not permitted; there will be identification issues; and there will also be the usual issues of undue influence with added complications.’
DAC Beachcroft partner Ross Risby said homeworking could also contribute to a rise in claims.
‘The change in working practices…over the last few months is likely to not only result in a short-term blip in the type or flavour of notifications,’ he said. ‘It is also going to lead to law firms needing to focus on finessing their risk management practices in order to cater for the fact there is more home working going on, less face to face contact and in my view, less supervision.’