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. In the lawyers professional liability area, Wiley Rein is often retained in connection with large exposure claims arising from complex underlying representations, including intellectual property, international trade, and securities, among many others.  

Wiley Rein acts as lead defense counsel from the outset of many 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. In other situations, 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.

  • As counsel retained for proceedings in the North Carolina Supreme Court in a case important to the accounting profession, obtained a grant of discretionary review and then reversal of an intermediate appellate court decision holding that an auditor may owe a fiduciary duty to the audit client as a matter of law. CommScope Credit  Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP,  --- S.E.2d ----, No. 5PA15, 2016 WL 5335250 (N.C. Sept. 23, 2016). 
  • Acted as lead counsel for Professor Alan Dershowitz in a highly-publicized defamation case in state court in Florida, which was resolved in April 2016 with the parties issuing a Joint Statement in which the opposing parties withdrew the allegations against Professor Dershowitz.  
  • Represented an insurance broker for post-trial motions and possible appeal following a jury verdict and judgment of over $23 million in a professional liability case; Judge Rakoff granted the motion for new trial. Cammeby’s Mgmt. Co. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 152 F. Supp. 3d 159 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2016). 
  • 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).
  • 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., 600 F. App’x 792 (2d Cir. 2015), aff’g, 933 F. Supp. 2d 354 (D. Conn. 2013).
  • 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 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).

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