Legal Professional Liability
Opposing counsel has "never come close
to WTO's level of skill and experience."
Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell defends lawyers and law firms against high-stakes professional liability claims. WTO attorneys have won numerous significant trials and appeals for regional, national, and international law firms. Best Lawyers named WTO Chairman Michael O'Donnell the 2020 Legal Malpractice Defense Denver Lawyer of the Year and Co-Managing Partner Carolyn Fairless the 2017 Professional Liability Defense Denver Lawyer of the Year. These recognitions speak volumes for WTO's reputation in this niche legal market.
WTO lawyers represent regional, national, and international law firms and lawyers in legal malpractice and professional liability matters. We routinely litigate and try complex, high-exposure cases for firms across the country, including in difficult jurisdictions and involving the types of matters that keep law firm general counsel and loss prevention partners awake at night.
WTO's legal malpractice lawyers have litigated class actions involving malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. We use our knowledge of these and other complex lawsuits to help streamline case narratives when the facts are highly technical or potentially confusing to juries. Our lawyers are adept at explaining relevant aspects of claims and their underlying cases in ways that are clear and meaningful to jurors.
Our legal malpractice team evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of a case and develops creative arguments and fresh trial strategies. Often, we obtain summary judgment or get cases dismissed in the pretrial stage. When cases do go to trial, we have deep trial experience in legal malpractice matters and are well prepared to defend our clients. We are also very comfortable being called in late to try cases on the verge of trial, or to rehabilitate cases that are going poorly.
WTO's clients have praised our handling of highly-charged lawsuits and recognized that all of our trial team members, including the paralegals, document clerks, and legal secretaries assisting with trial preparation, are dedicated to winning cases. One law firm general counsel said he "genuinely enjoyed working with the team, even during late nights and early mornings," and would not hesitate to hire us again (though we appreciate he would rather not need to).
Articles and Presentations
- Argued and won a motion to dismiss $150 million malpractice claims brought in Nevada against an AmLaw 200 firm. The allegations involved the accuracy of an underlying tax opinion.
- Won a landmark federal case in Illinois defining the obligations of lead and liaison counsel in multidistrict litigation.
- Obtained summary judgment for a national legal malpractice carrier in an attorney-lien enforcement action in Wyoming district court. In this matter of first impression, the Court held that the plain language of the statute precluded the plaintiff law firm's attorney-lien and constructive fraud claims. As the prevailing party under the statute, WTO obtained a significant award of attorneys' fees and costs for its client.
- Won an arbitration award for a lawyer and law firm against malpractice claims related to a 2014 real estate deal. Claimants asserted damages of $3 million plus interest. The arbiter ruled for WTO's client and found that no malpractice occurred.
- Won a complete defense verdict for a lawyer and law firm accused of malpractice in the handling of a sale of interests in the plaintiff's company.
- Won an arbitration for a law firm client that sued its former client for unpaid fees and was countersued for malpractice. The arbitrator rejected the malpractice claims and awarded WTO's client its unpaid fees plus interest, as well as its legal fees and costs incurred in the arbitration.
- Won a complete defense verdict in a professional liability claim against a law firm and lawyer. The plaintiff alleged that WTO's client was negligent, yet the jury found that not only was our client not negligent, but that the alleged negligence didn't cause the claimed damages.
- Obtained Rule 12 dismissal for a Midwest-based, AmLaw 200 firm facing claims exceeding $500 million in state court in Kentucky.
- Won Tenth Circuit victory for a law firm client in protracted litigation arising out of a divorce and bankruptcy characterized as "the most complex [the divorce court] has seen in 25 years." The plaintiff-husband sued WTO's client, which handled the bankruptcy proceedings for the plaintiff's ex-wife, and the ex-wife's divorce counsel, in federal court. The Tenth Circuit's ruling in this matter follows a 2015 ruling for our client from the Tenth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.
- Won summary judgment for a large regional law firm in a legal malpractice case involving claims that the firm's lawyers failed to properly advise the plaintiff regarding environmental issues in an underlying real estate transaction.
- Won a unanimous opinion from the Colorado Supreme Court that strongly upholds Colorado's strict privity rule in determining whether non-client beneficiaries may sue an estate lawyer for malpractice or professional liability. In its opinion, the Court adopted the most stringent test, as WTO advocated, and affirmed that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue our clients.
- Prevailed before the Tenth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, which affirmed a bankruptcy court's order of summary judgment for WTO's client, a law firm that had been sued for representing its client in bankruptcy proceedings that became intertwined with a protracted divorce in which the plaintiff (to the appeal) was a party.
- Won a complete defense jury verdict in a $12 million legal malpractice case. The jury found in favor of WTO's client on all claims and also awarded unpaid legal fees owed by plaintiffs.
- Won a complete defense jury verdict in federal court for a large international law firm accused of malpractice. The plaintiff hired WTO's client to handle a complex patent infringement matter, then sued the firm for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
- Won back-to-back Colorado Court of Appeals victories in June 2013 in legal malpractice cases involving claims of failure to disclose, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, and breach of fiduciary duty.
- Defeated class certification in federal court in Oklahoma in a case involving thousands of claimants against a law firm that represents clients before the Social Security Administration. Following the denial of certification, the court granted summary judgment in favor of WTO's client on all remaining individual claims in the case.
- Won a bench verdict in state court in a legal malpractice matter. After the law firm brought a collection action against a former client, the former client countered with a multimillion-dollar damages demand, claiming breach of fiduciary duty. Following a one-week trial, the judge dismissed the former client's counterclaim and awarded WTO's client the full amount of fees owed plus interest.
- Won an arbitration award in favor of a law firm client. The arbitrator denied all legal malpractice claims against WTO's client and awarded it unpaid fees, plus interest, attorneys' fees, and costs.
- Obtained a Rule 12(b) dismissal of a complaint filed in federal court in Missouri against a large international law firm. The plaintiffs ultimately obtained an eight-figure jury verdict against the remaining defendants in the case.
- Obtained summary judgment for a law firm client and an award of attorneys' fees in a legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff sought $7 million in damages. The plaintiff appealed the award of attorneys' fees, and the parties settled the appeal with payments being made to the client.
- Obtained partial summary judgment in federal court for a large national law firm that had been sued for malpractice, aiding and abetting, conspiracy, and violations of RICO. The ruling reduced the damage claim from over $150 million to less than $2 million and paved the way for a favorable settlement of the case.
- Awarded complete summary judgment in a legal malpractice case one week before a multi-week trial was scheduled to begin. The plaintiff had sought over $5 million in damages.