Practices  |  Litigation

Professional Liability Defense


Wiley Rein has extensive experience and expertise defending lawyers, accountants, and other professionals against malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and other claims in state and federal courts nationwide. Professionals with the right to select their own defense counsel as well as insurance carriers with the right to retain counsel to defend their insured professionals turn to Wiley Rein to defend cases with high exposure or that raise important issues of professional liability law.

Wiley Rein often acts as lead defense counsel from the outset of professional liability malpractice cases. Other times, Wiley Rein is brought into a pending case to act as trial counsel or to take the lead in drafting and arguing dispositive motions. Clients also frequently retain Wiley Rein as appellate counsel following an adverse result at the trial court level, or to preserve a favorable outcome.

Wiley Rein’s goal in defending all professional liability claims is to obtain the best possible result for the client in a cost-efficient manner. In some instances, it is critical for the professional to be vindicated by prevailing on the merits in a final decision, at trial, or on appeal. Other times, however, the client is best served by aggressively pursuing an early settlement, before substantial defense costs are incurred and, in some cases, before malpractice allegations are made public. Often, it is in the client’s best interest to pursue a vigorous defense that postures the case for a favorable settlement at an opportune moment. No two cases are the same, and Wiley Rein approaches each case in a tailored, thoughtful manner.

Confidentiality concerns preclude identification of the firm’s professional liability clients in most instances. Representative examples of current and recent professional liability defense cases handled by Wiley Rein attorneys are set forth below, but with identifying information included only as to certain published decisions. Confidential client references are available upon request.

  • Retained as appellate counsel following a large jury verdict against a law firm in Ohio. On appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed and directed entry of judgment for the law firm in an opinion that is now an important precedent often used to defend legal malpractice claims. ENC v. Goodman Weiss Miller, LLP, 893 N.E.2d 173 (Ohio 2008) (The appellate argument presented on April 22, 2008, by Richard A. Simpson may be viewed on the Ohio Supreme Court's website).
  • Acted as trial counsel for a District of Columbia lawyer in a closely watched legal malpractice case brought by a Nobel Prize laureate, obtaining a defense jury verdict following a nine-day trial. (2011).
  • Retained as lead appellate counsel in the North Carolina Supreme Court to seek review of the intermediate appellate court decision in CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP, 764 S.E.2d 642 (N.C. Ct. App. 2014), which held, among other things, that an auditor may owe a fiduciary duty to the audit client; review was granted and the case has been briefed and argued in the North Carolina Supreme Court (oral argument presented by Richard A. Simpson on September 1, 2015).
  • Represented accounting firm on appeal in a case arising from the Madoff fraud, obtaining affirmance by the Second Circuit of the district court's decision dismissing plaintiffs' negligence and professional malpractice claims for failure to state plausible claims of breach of duty. DeLollis v. Friedberg, Smith & Co., P.C., 600 F. App’x 792 (2d Cir. 2015), aff’g, 933 F. Supp. 2d 354 (D. Conn. 2013).
  • Currently acting as lead defense counsel for a prominent lawyer in a defamation case in Florida state court that has received substantial international publicity.
  • Successfully defended an attorney and a law firm facing a serious sanctions motion seeking a high six-figure award following a summary judgment decision critical of counsel and the client (2015). 
  • Currently acting as appellate counsel in the Ninth Circuit for a Washington state law firm defending a favorable summary judgment ruling in a legal malpractice case.
  • Retained to complete discovery and act as lead trial counsel in a lawyers professional liability action in Florida state court arising from a large real estate development project; case settled on favorable terms shortly before a 2015 trial date.
  • Currently representing an insurance broker for post-trial motions and, if necessary, an appeal to the Second Circuit following an 8-figure jury verdict against the broker (post-trial motions pending).
  • Currently acting as appellate counsel for an intellectual property law firm in an appeal to the Second Circuit from a substantial jury verdict against the law firm.
  • Currently representing lawyers and law firms in connection with state bar disciplinary matters and recently represented a lawyer in a U.S. Patent Office disciplinary matter.
  • Currently providing legal ethics advice to law firms.
  • Retained as appellate counsel for an engineering firm and a landscape architectural firm in a New York state court case that settled on favorable terms while the appeal was pending (2012).
  • Represented a national law firm in defending legal malpractice claims arising from its international trade practice that settled on favorable terms (2010).

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Richard A. Simpson
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