I Have Competence

October 21, 2022

Reading time: 2 minutes

Remember when Julie Andrews sang and danced her way from the Abbey to the Von Trapp family home?  With her determination growing, she merrily sang:

So let them bring on all their problems
I’ll do better than my best
I have confidence
They’ll put me to the test
But I’ll make them see
I have confidence in me

While we should all approach our practice with such enthusiasm, the legal profession requires more than just confidence in ourselves.  Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct – along with most jurisdictions’ Trial and Local Rules – requires that an attorney be competent.  Specifically, “[a] lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.  Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”  In other words, a lawyer should already possess the legal knowledge and experience to accept representation in that new case. 

Consider the following checklist with respect when taking a case outside your typical area of practice:

  • Is there someone in my firm with the knowledge and expertise in this area that will appear in this case with me?
  • Does my current caseload allow me the time to be diligent in managing all the deadlines of which I may be unfamiliar?
  • Will this case require extensive research because of my unfamiliarity with the practice area for which I cannot bill the client?
  • Is my gut telling me I shouldn’t take it?

While tempting to take on that new matter outside your typical caseload, it may be best in the long run to simply refer the matter.  Practically speaking, it could save a grievance or malpractice complaint, and it will give you more time to focus on those cases in which you are competent – and confident – to handle. 

Additional Law Firm Management content


Insurance defense lawyers learn about the importance of the tripartite relationship with the insurer and its insured as soon as they start practicing law. After all, it is critical to offering the effective legal services for which you were hired. In this triad, a lawyer is tasked with maintaining their duty of loyalty to the client while upholding their fiduciary duty to the insurance company. This form of dual loyalty can lead to tension, real or perceived.

Vacation, Retirement, and Succession Planning

It is no secret that a wave of Baby Boomer lawyers are set to retire in the next few years. With approximately 30.4 million Americans turning age 65 between 2024 and 2030, America has never seen so many people reach retirement age in such a short period of time. While hopefully your firm’s strategic plan has already addressed how to handle their departure, you are not alone if you have not yet considered the impact the retirement of your senior lawyers may have on your practice.


As an attorney, you might feel like you are putting out fires every day, all day.  But what about when you find yourself caught in the blaze?  If you made a mistake that may warrant a malpractice claim or grievance – stop, drop, and roll. 

Information provided by AttPro Ally is not intended as legal advice. This publication provides best practices for use in connection with general circumstances and ordinarily does not address specific situations. Specific situations should be discussed with legal counsel licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction. By publishing practice and risk prevention tips, Attorney Protective neither implies nor provides any guarantee that claims can be prevented by the use of the suggested practices. Though the contents of AttPro Ally have been carefully researched, Attorney Protective makes no warranty as to its accuracy, applicability, or timeliness. Anyone wishing to reproduce any part of the AttPro Ally content must request permission from Attorney Protective by calling 877-728-8776 or sending an email to [email protected].

© 2024 AttPro Ally. All rights reserved.