Here is a commentary from Larry Upshaw  on the pro/con arguments for a law firm putting an arbitration clause in the retainer agreement.  From plaintiff’s prospective, it can be a costly problem.  Take a commercial legal malpractice in which there are potential $ 1 million damages.

A trial can be had for the cost of an index number.  The arbitrator’s fees can be as high as $ 50,000.

From the blog: "It’s curious that many lawyers routinely put arbitration clauses in their engagement letters with clients. Here you have quite literally the foot soldiers in the third branch of government, charged by our professional oath to be officers of the court. And yet, in contracts with clients, these attorneys opt out of the court system by obligating clients to take any dispute to arbitration.

The subtext of that conduct seems clear: these lawyers don’t trust the court system to treat them fairly and prefer the private dispute resolution process of arbitration to court. Call me crazy, but that certainly sounds out of whack. It’s kind of like a doctor saying, “If I get sick, whatever you do, do not take me to a hospital.”

While it may seem ironic that lawyers are running for protection to arbitration clauses, there is an even bigger ironic surprise waiting for these lawyers who opt out of the court system. Keep in mind that the arbitration clause in your engagement letter obligates your client to pursue his or her malpractice claim against you in arbitration instead of in court. And it therefore obligates your insurance carrier to have its liability for your malpractice determined in arbitration instead of in court. It turns out that insurance companies actually like jury trials and are not always all that fond of arbitration. Lawyers who force their clients into arbitration and then get an arbitration case for malpractice are now routinely receiving a “Reservation of Rights” letter from their insurance carrier, threatening to deny insurance coverage because the lawyer deprived the insurance company of its right to a jury trial.

Next time you are tempted to show your distrust for the court system by including an arbitration clause in your fee contracts, keep in mind that you may have just cancelled your malpractice insurance policy. "

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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

 

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.