Most often, people associate the term “malpractice” with negligence or carelessness shown by a member of a professional group – such as a doctor, an accountant, or even an attorney. However, it’s important to keep in mind that all of these professionals are also held to a higher standard of care than most, and as such – they may be sued as a result of their failure to offer their clients that specific degree of attention.
When you hire an attorney to represent you in any case – no matter what that case may involve – you do so expecting that the attorney in question will represent you in front of the court to the best of his or her ability. Therefore, if the lawyer you have signed a contract with fails to give you the level of professionalism you believe you are owed, they could be in breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, or guilty of neglect.
Understanding the Standard of Care
Before you can accuse an attorney of any form of legal malpractice, however, you must first understand what the “standard of care” you’re searching for applies to. For instance, most professional malpractice cases are based on a theory of legal negligence. When a jury is required to determine whether an individual has engaged in malpractice, they must start by determining whether that individual used the correct standard of care.
The standard of care for a professional is different than that of an ordinary citizen. As a general rule, the standard of care for a professional is the amount of care that any “reasonably” prudent professional within the same line of work would be expected to exercise. For instance, if an attorney acts in his own best interest instead of working to represent your best interests, then he will have committed malpractice by breach of fiduciary duty.
Examples of Legal Malpractice
In the area of law, legal malpractice can refer to the failure to file documents in a timely manner, the failure to represent a client as set forth in the code of ethics provided within a given state, the misuse of funds given by a client, or the failure to appear on the behalf of a client.
Some examples of attorney malpractice may include:
- Outrageous mistakes – if your attorney makes mistakes that wouldn’t be considered as reasonable by another legal professional, such as missing deadlines and court dates, or being irresponsible, they may be classed as guilty of malpractice.
- Sending bad checks – if attorneys sends a check from their own account for damages that a client has won, and that check bounces, the attorney may have committed malpractice.
- Failing to remain in contact – if your attorney does not return your phone calls or fails to respond to your letters for extended periods of time, he or she may have committed malpractice.
To learn more about the issues involved with legal malpractice cases, contact Makarem & Associates via phone at:310.312.0299 or email [email protected]. Ron Makarem is a Certified Legal Malpractice Specialist by the California State Bar.