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Legal Malpractice and Attorney-Client Privilege

The issue of legal malpractice takes place when an attorney either negligently, or intentionally mishandles a legal case to such an extent that it causes damage to their client. Statistics throughout the United States have indicated that legal malpractice is a significant issue. In fact, the number of claims that are brought against attorneys within the United States is accelerating faster than the development of the legal industry.

Legal malpractice can arise in a number of different forms, ranging from small instances of accidental negligence on the behalf of the attorney, to intentionally harmful conduct. Some of the most common examples of legal malpractice include:

  • Misuse and abuse of the trust of a client’s (attorney-client privilege)
  • Failure to act accordingly to the statute of limitations
  • Inability to resolve a conflict of interest
  • Refusal to communicate properly or return a client’s phone calls
  • Failure to understand the extent of the law or perform the relevant research

An important thing to remember is that even after a client and their attorney have terminated their legal relationship, that lawyer does not have permission to acquire the interests that could be adverse to the client as this could breach attorney-client privilege. Similarly, a lawyer is not permitted to use any of the information that she or he obtained from the client throughout the course of the case or any other matter at all as well.

Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege

In regards to the law of evidence, attorney-client privilege refers to the rights of a client to refuse to disclose information to an attorney. In a legal format, the concept of attorney-client privilege permits that attorney to refuse to testify any communications regarding the client, since those utterances or statements belong to the client, and only the client may waive the attorney-client privilege.

The idea of attorney-client privilege is hoped to encourage legal clients to disclose all pertinent information that they may have about a legal matter to their attorneys, with the understanding that the information they give is protected from discovery. The information that is held strictly between the client and his or her lawyer, may remain completely private so long as the court in question doesn’t find a reason to force disclosure. The responsibility for deciding which aspects of information should remain confidential is given to the client.

How to Deal with Legal Malpractice

An individual identified as a victim of legal malpractice could seek recovery for the damages inflicted in a number of ways. Generally, the most common method is to file a civil lawsuit against the attorney. If the suit is successful, a client may then recover some financial damages, and if the attorney committed a crime, they may be subject to prosecution. A client claiming legal malpractice may also choose to report their attorney to the California disciplinary board.

The ‘state bar’  is responsible for regulating the ethical behavior of attorneys within that state, and although the client is unlikely to recover damages from this, disciplinary sanctions may take place. For more advice on dealing with the issue of legal malpractice and claiming justice for the damages that may have been done to you, contact the legal experts at Makarem & Associates, either via email at info@makaremlaw.com or by phone at 310.312.0299. Ron Makarem is a certified legal malpractice specialist by the State Bar of California. We are ready to fight for you rights!