A Small Business Guide to Errors and Omissions

Chapter 2: Dealing with Errors and Omissions Lawsuits
Part 3: Where Can I Find a Malpractice Attorney?

Finding a defense attorney for an errors and omissions case can be downright daunting — especially if you don't have E&O Insurance, which allows your insurer to provide a lawyer for you. However, there are a few other routes that can lead you to legal representation.

Getting Started: Finding an E&O Defense Attorney Online

Unless you have friends or relatives who are attorneys and can point you in the direction of a lawyer who specializes in professional liability ligation, word of mouth referrals may not get you very far. So when you're starting from scratch, the Internet may be your best resource for generating a list of prospective defense attorneys. A good place to start may be…

Both of these online directories are free and allow you to search for lawyers in your area. You can filter your search based on your location and the law firm's area of practice. Note: when searching for an area of practice, the most helpful search terms are usually "malpractice," "professional liability," and "professional negligence."

How to Tell If the Defense Attorney Is Right for Your Small Business

Once you have a list of potential defense attorneys, you'll need to consider each lawyer's…

  • Biographical information. Search the attorney's website to ensure they specialize in defending Errors and Omissions. The profile for the lawyer and their firm should give you an idea their typical client (e.g., injured patients vs. the doctor accused of wrongdoing). Usually, malpractice attorneys specialize in representing either plaintiffs or defendants — not both. If you're not sure about an attorney's services, call their office and ask.
  • Experience with small businesses. Unfortunately, it's not enough to find an attorney who represents defendants in E&O lawsuits. You want to find a legal representative who has experience in your industry or with small businesses. For example, many attorneys do not have the requisite expertise to take on a medical malpractice case.
  • Standing with your state bar association. Find out if your prospective lawyer is in good standing (i.e., has been admitted to the bar of your state, meets client security fund requirements, and is not disbarred or under suspension). Simply look the attorney up on your state bar association's website, which you can find on the American Bar Association's interactive map New browser window icon..
  • References. Before you hire an attorney, talk to people who can comment on the lawyer's expertise, experience, and trustworthiness. Usually, you can ask a lawyer for a list of references, such as past clients or professional associates.
  • Track record. Ask your potential lawyer about the percentage of their cases that involve malpractice. A higher percentage of malpractice work means they'll have more experience. You'll also want to know the percentage of cases that go to trial or settle out of court. Typically, settling is less expensive for defendants.

Keep in mind that good lawyers are usually very busy. So don't discount a prospective attorney simply because they couldn't meet with you immediately. At the same time, formal complaints are time sensitive. Remember, you usually need to file a response within 20 to 30 days of receiving the summons.

You typically have 20 to 30 days to respond to a formal complaint.

The Pitfalls of Finding an Attorney on Your Own

You don't want to hire just anyone to protect your business and your livelihood. You want to find someone with the skills and savvy to resolve the matter quickly so you can get back to running your business.

But as small-business owners know, time is money. The more effort and energy you spend on hunting down good legal defense, the less time you have to grow your business.

Plus, hiring an attorney is expensive. Not to worry — in the next section, we'll explore some ways to fund your legal defense.

Next: Part 4: Lawsuit Funding Tips for Small-Business Owners