Guest Column | September 30, 2021

Client Representation: Does This Open You Up To Professional Risk?

By Grace Murphy


When representing clients, you're putting yourself out there. However, providing advice is often fraught with difficulty because there's always the risk that someone will misuse the advice and blame you. Also, the advice could be well-intended but inaccurate.

Other risks are present with professional representation. However, they will usually fall outside of other business insurance policies; therefore, it's worth looking at how to protect yourself professionally.

Advice And The Risks Of Providing It

Giving business advice is a difficult thing.

Let's face it – sometimes people fail to follow the advice or implement it poorly. They can suffer as a result of their poor implementation but then look for someone else to blame. Not wanting to take responsibility can be a human trait; however, it can become a potential liability for the well-meaning professional.

Another possibility is inaccurate information. It may never have been the plan to provide it, but getting the facts wrong or misinterpreting them can deliver bad advice to clients. For the professional, this can be an occupational hazard. This is where professional liability insurance is applicable.

Professional liability insurance provides coverage for inaccurate advice that's led to a legal dispute. The Hartford offers professional liability insurance as well as other business insurance, which you can browse through. It can protect professionals who acknowledge that mistakes could sometimes happen even on their watch.

Negligence And Where It's True

An accusation can be made against a professional for negligence.

The idea here is that they've been harmed through the poor provision of professional services. This goes beyond what might have been considered an omission or unintentional error to something more serious.

It's worth bearing in mind that negligence is subject to broad interpretation (and misinterpretation). While you may not feel that you were negligent, the other party may strongly disagree. And their lawyer may see their side as well.

Getting to the bottom of it and establishing the facts is necessary to get clarification. This is best done before it becomes a costly legal mess to clean up.

Misrepresentation And How It Affects Professionals

When the professional provides representation on the client's behalf, then there's the possibility of what's perceived as misrepresentation.

What this might be, how serious it is, and whether it's true are all matters up for discussion. However, it's a serious accusation that can have career-ending consequences when mishandled. It's necessary as a professional to work through any such accusation to understand the other party's feelings. While it's fair to say that feelings aren't facts, complaints about misrepresentation can quickly become emotionally heated.

Discussions about what should and should not have happened are challenging to resolve. Opinions often vary widely due to different perspectives and differences in understanding. The other party may feel poor representation may not be the case, but that may not stop a legal proceeding and potential reputational damage.

The situations where professionals can come unstuck are many. It's not always possible to avoid conflicts when providing representation or advice because it's ad hoc and lacking in systems—as such, taking on insurance to protect from errors and omissions is often sensible.

About The Author

Grace Murphy is an experienced reviewer and journalist dedicated to sharing updates from throughout the business market, as well as reviews on the products and services you want to hear about. Small businesses across the corporate market have relied on her insight and knowledge to drive them forward for years.