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Ethics


dates and should also be responsible for providing the attorneys with reminders regarding important dates. Decisions must be made about whether the law practice


management system should be manual or computerized, or some combination of both. If the system is to be computerized, in whole or in part, then implementation will include the selection and maintenance of hardware and software, as well as precautions to backup and otherwise prevent the loss of data. Tere are many software packages available for this purpose, and it is beyond the scope of this article to assess the available software. Management of statutes of limitations or deadlines is


equally important when it comes to terminating representation. Attorneys often undertake representation of clients with the understanding, hopefully memorialized in a written agreement, that the attorneys will investigate potential claims, and that depending on the outcome of such investigations the attorneys will either pursue the claims or will terminate the representation. Te law practice management system should have a feature that requires attorneys to make decisions in this regard, and to communicate such decisions to clients, preferably in writing, by a date that leaves a sufficient time before expiration of the statute of limitations for the client to timely file a lawsuit or claim. “[C] ourts have consistently held that ‘[a]n attorney cannot be held liable for failing to file an action prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations’ provided that “there was a sufficiently long time gap between the severing of the attorney-client relationship and the lapse of the statute of limitations” to allow the client to engage new counsel, if the client chooses to attempt to engage new counsel, and file suit. Norton v. Te Sperling Law Office, P.C., 437 F.Supp.2d 398, 402-03 (D. Md. 2006) (citations omitted, but quoting and discussing a large number of cases from other jurisdictions). See, also, Riordan v. Jones, 793 F.Supp. 650, 651 (D. Md. 1992), aff’d, 989 F.2d 494 (4th Cir. 1993). “Courts have not set a minimum baseline for what constitutes ‘sufficient time,’ although one court has deemed as little as thirty days sufficient,” and another found “two months sufficient,” etc. Norton, 437 F.Supp.2d at 403. “[S]ufficient time” depends on the circumstances of the underlying case. Id. In Norton, even though 10 weeks would ordinarily be “sufficient time” it was not in the case before the court because the plaintiff ’s successor attorney could not reasonably have been expected to complete an investigation regarding whether Maryland could exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant and thus was a proper forum in which to file suit in a timely manner. Norton, 437 F.Supp.2d at 403-04. Te law practice management system should also require


attorneys to warn or advise clients about applicable statutes of limitations or deadlines if representation is terminated before lawsuits or claims are filed on behalf of the clients. Some courts have held that attorneys can be liable for failing to advise regarding the statute of limitations applicable to a potential claim


even if representation is declined by the attorney after an initial consultation. See, e.g., Togstad v. Vesely, Otto, Miller & Keefe, 291 N.W.2d 686, 694 (Minn. 1980) (a jury could conclude that an attorney with whom plaintiff consulted about a possible medical malpractice claim and who declined the case was negligent because the attorney failed to advise the plaintiff regarding the statute of limitations). Other courts have refused to impose the burden of providing advice regarding the amount of time remaining on the applicable limitations period on attorneys who decline a case after an initial consultation. Lopez v. Clifford Law Offices, P.C., 841 N.E.2d 465, 476 (Ill. App. 2005),app. den. (2006) (counsel who declined a case after an initial consultation was not responsible for providing advice regarding the amount of time remaining in the limitations period). Likewise, some courts have held that while attorneys may limit their representation to a particular types of claims, e.g., workers’ compensation claims, attorneys nonetheless have (1) a duty to advise clients about the possibility of other types of claims, e.g., third-party actions, and either to investigate such claims or to advise the clients to consult other counsel about such claims, and (2) a duty to advise clients of the statute of limitations applicable to such claims and that such claims would be barred if not filed within the


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