Legal malpractice can occur for a number of reasons and affects every area of law. To better understand the types of legal malpractice claims, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently completed a study of 42,076 legal malpractice claims filed in the United States between 2000-2007. In that study, the ABA found that over 44 percent of all legal malpractice claims were due to one of the following five reasons: Failure to know or apply the law; Planning or strategy error; Inadequate discovery of facts or inadequate investigation; Failure to file documents without a deadline; and Failure to calendar properly. Each of these types of malpractice claims are explained below.
Failure to Know or Apply the Law (11.3%)
Failure to know or apply the law is the most common type of legal malpractice. California legal ethics do not require that attorney be experts in every area of law in which they represent their clients. Instead, it requires that an attorney be able to competently represent their client in an area of law by conducting a reasonable amount of research, or by associating with a more knowledgeable attorney. This type of legal malpractice may occur if you hired a lawyer who normally handles civil cases to represent you in a criminal matter and they fail to adequately research and understand common legal principles of criminal law.
Planning or Strategy Error (8.9%)
Lawyers can be liable for professional negligence simply if they make a poor choice of strategy. For example, your lawyer may have known about certain defenses that were available to you, but failed to include them in the pre-trial pleadings. If the failure to raise those defenses can be shown to have negatively affected the outcome of your case, the lawyer may be liable for legal malpractice.
Inadequate Discovery of Facts or Inadequate Investigation (8.8%)
This category of legal malpractice includes cases where your lawyer failed to discover important facts about your case. For example, if you were injured in a car accident and your lawyer failed to discover a key witness that would have affected your rights in a case, they may be liable for legal malpractice.
Failure to File Documents: No Deadline (8.6%)
This category of legal malpractice occurs when your lawyer fails to file documents necessary to protect your rights that didn’t have a hard deadline. Failure to file documents can seriously impair your property rights in race-notice states such as California. For example, if one person sold a piece of property to two different people, who did not have knowledge about one another’s dealings, the person who records (files) their paperwork first is given priority against all subsequent claims.
Failure to Calendar Properly (6.7%)
Failure to calendar property addresses situations where your lawyer was aware of a deadline, but failed to schedule it. This type of legal malpractice can result from something as simple as your lawyer forgetting to set an important reminder. Failure to calendar properly can result in your case being dismissed, missing a scheduled hearing, or being unable to admit important evidence or pleadings.
Since over half of all legal malpractice claims occur for other reasons, we’ve also included the next five most common areas lawyers are found to be negligent: Failure to Know Deadline (6.6%); Procrastination (5.9%); Failure to Obtain Client Consent (5.4%); Conflict of Interest (5.3%); and Fraud (5%).
If you’ve been injured by your attorney’s misconduct or negligence, the legal malpractice lawyers at Makarem & Associates are here for you. We understand the complexities of legal malpractice law, and can help you recover damages for your injuries. We will review the facts of your case, explain your rights, and advise you about how to proceed. Contact one of our qualified Los Angeles legal malpractice attorneys today by email [email protected] or phone 310.312.0299 to discuss your case