What is Legal Malpractice?
Many clients are unaware that they have the ability to bring a claim against their lawyer for legal malpractice. As in almost every profession, lawyers have a standard of care they must meet with their practice. When their practice falls below the standard of care, they have breached their duty to their client. A lawyer breaches the standard of care when he or she does not use the degree of care and skill that a reasonably competent lawyer in similar circumstances would use.
Do I Have a Legal Malpractice Claim?
When bringing a legal malpractice claim, a client must typically prove the following:
- That the client employed the lawyer or enlisted the lawyer's services.
- The lawyer acted negligently, breaching his/her reasonable duty under the standard of care.
- The client suffered a loss caused by the lawyer's negligence.
What is the Standard of Care in a Legal Malpractice Case?
Here are some common duties owed by a lawyer to his or her client:
- A duty to communicate;
- A duty to timely and adequately respond to a client’s inquiry;
- A duty to file a client’s lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations;
- A duty to ensure that a client is informed of and takes reasonable measures to meet deadlines;
- A duty to explain the legal significance of documents to clients before they sign them;
- A duty to advise a client as to the need to timely answer discovery requests and the potential sanctions associated with serving untimely discovery responses;
- A duty to timely act in order to ensure the preservation of key evidence; and
- A duty to provide competent advice.
When Does Legal Malpractice Occur Most Frequently?
Almost 25% of legal malpractice claims are triggered by a problem associated with the preparation of, filing of, or transmittal of documents. Another 20% of all legal malpractice claims originate from a pretrial or prehearing mistake, 15% originate during a specific action or proceeding, another 15% from client claims of incompetent advice, and 10% originate from negligence in a settlement or negotiation. Other common incidences include:
- A lawyer failing to obtain client consent to a course of action;
- A lawyer improperly withdrawing from a case;
- A lawyer taking on a case despite a clear conflict of interest; or
- A lawyer engaging in malicious prosecution.
What Damages Could I Recover with a Legal Malpractice Claim?
The damages for a legal malpractice claim are usually equal to the damages that would have been recovered in the underlying case that was mishandled by the negligent lawyer.
Our firm has decades of experience with legal malpractice claims, to better assist you in your case. View our verdicts and settlements for more information on our history of success.