First and foremost, one needs to understand what legal malpractice is before considering a lawsuit. Legal malpractice is when a lawyer/attorney representing a client makes a mistake, omits something or is in breach of duty to the person he/she is representing or the justice system. This generally leads to a negative legal outcome or a loss in monetary terms for the client and all other parties involved. It may also have a negative psychological impact on the client.
What Evidence or Characteristics can a Client Use to Claim Legal Malpractice?
First, it should be obvious that the standard of professional conduct was violated. The rule of law stipulates that there are certain legal standards known by those in the profession that are considered acceptable conduct. The standards of professional conduct are mostly determined by the ethics rules of the state bar association. Lawyers have an obligation to their clients and the bar to adhere to these standards.
The standards of professional conduct states clearly that when clients hire legal representatives, they expect attorneys to follow the rule of law, behave in an ethical and honest manner, perform their work in the best interests of the clients with integrity, with diligence and in good faith, and to execute the task ahead at high levels of competency that protects the clients’ legal rights. Lawyers must also frequently supply clients with full and detailed reports of all finances and property handled on their behalf.
Secondly, the client has to prove that negligence on the attorney’s side caused a negative legal outcome. The claimant must also prove that there were other negative complications, either legal or monetary that occurred due to negligence on behalf of their lawyer.
Forms of Legal Malpractice
Any of the following can be considered legal malpractice:
- Losing files, documents, or evidence;
- Procrastinating in offering services or lack of follow-up on relevant information during discharge of duty;
- Lack of knowledge of the law or failure to apply it properly: this occurs when the lawyer did not know of the legal principles involved, did the research but failed to apply the appropriate laws;
- Fraudulent practices by the lawyer;
- Inadequate discovery of proof or insufficient investigation: this applies to cases where the client feels that the lawyer didn’t do his job properly to uncover certain facts that could have been instrumental in the case, generally due to poor investigation;
- Clerical error. For example, someone who isn’t a lawyer performing tasks on behalf of the lawyer making typing mistakes or any other type of clerical mistake that could be uncovered by properly proofreading the documents;
- Failure by the lawyer to follow a schedule properly. This applies where the lawyer knew of the existence of a time deadline but failed to initiate any kind of calendar entry to serve as a reminder to himself;
If you feel you have been the victim of legal malpractice, please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] or call us at 310.312.0299 and we can go over the route you should take. At Makarem & Associates, we have the necessary experience to effectively deal with legal malpractice cases for our clients. Ron Makarem is a Certified Legal Malpractice Specialist by the California Bar Association.