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Lawyers Hide From Lawsuits

Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM

Lawyers Weekly USA reported Thursday that a growing number of lawyers are putting fine print in fee agreements shielding them from being sued by a client if they botch a case.

The national newspaper for small law firms said lawyers instead prefer that such disputes go to private arbitration because arbitration is faster and cheaper, decisions are often made by other lawyers rather than juries, and there's no public record.

Such "arbitration clauses" have raised questions of ethics and have themselves become the subject of litigation in some states.

"The growing practice of lawyers of preventing themselves from being sued by a client for negligence raises some serious ethical questions," said Thomas F. Harrison, publisher of the weekly newspaper and its Web site.

"It is certainly ironic that some would take away this right from their clients."

Harrison said that while the arbitration clause is being used to reduce the amount of litigation, the newspaper's study found that in some cases it is increasing the number of lawsuits "because the clause itself ends up being litigated."

The paper said appeals courts in Texas, for example, are split as to whether such fine print is enforceable.

Bar associations in Maine, Missouri and California allow arbitration clauses, but Ohio does not.

Pennsylvania and Michigan allow them with informed consent, and in some cases, Harrison said, the client is even urged to consult another lawyer about the clause before hiring the first lawyer.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Lawyers Weekly USA reported Thursday that a growing number of lawyers are putting fine print in fee agreements shielding them from being sued by a client if they botch a case. The national newspaper for small law firms said lawyers instead prefer that such disputes go to...
Lawyers,Hide,From,Lawsuits
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2000-00-30
Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM
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