Francis Dingwall (pictured), partner at Liverpool firm Legal Risk, told the annual risk and compliance conference that just one in eight claims against law firms arises from lack of legal knowledge, whereas one in three is sparked by seemingly small ‘housekeeping’ mistakes.

‘Yet law firms concentrate their resources on developing legal expertise rather than improving administrative processes,’ said Dingwall.

Best practice, he continued, is to identify all risks, then evaluate and manage them. He said: ‘Ask yourself how likely the risk is to occur, what will be its impact and what countermeasures you should put in place,’ he urged. ‘And also, is the cost of the countermeasures proportionate to the risk and to the profit that the firm will make by taking that risk?’

He urged solicitors, when starting a matter, to ask: ‘What will it cost if I get this wrong?’

He suggested: ‘Perhaps even put the cost, including the claimant and the defence costs, on to the inside front cover of the file. That should concentrate the mind.’

More than 200 delegates attended the Law Society conference. A comprehensive report will appear in the Gazette next week.