A lawyer-client relationship – typically built on a high level of confidentiality and trust – can turn acrimonious if you believe your lawyer provided substandard service in dealing with your case. In this situation, you have the option of formally suing your lawyer, for legal malpractice.
In fact, this is the most commonly used way (but not necessarily the easiest way), to compensate for your loses due to poor legal representation. This article will help you understand more about this scenario – whether you have a valid case, what you can do, and how to prove it.
Types of claims for legal malpractice
A lawyer may be sued by a client for various reasons. But the most common types of malpractice suits are as follows:
- Sued for negligence
Negligence may seem like a harsh term, but this defines substandard legal service, especially when your chosen lawyer has not used his or her knowledge and skills to adequately represent/defend your case.
For instance, consider that your lawyer was late on critical deadlines (a blasphemy in the legal world!), or was underprepared for the eventual trial (worse!) or missed adhering to the court’s orders. Your case might then have relevant grounds for a negligence suit.
- Sued for breach of contract
This can happen if your lawyer violates any terms of your legal contract (like breaking your confidentiality agreement).
- Sued for breach of fiduciary duty
Just like doctors, lawyers do have a code of conduct (of legal duty) that they owe to their clients. Foremost among them are trust and confidentiality, and adherence with court orders. If you believe your lawyer has broken this, it is breach of fiduciary duty.
Examples would include breach of confidentiality, failure to adhere to timelines issued by the court, taking money from opposition to work against your interests, using confidential information (like your bank account) for personal gain, etc.
What you need to prove in order to have a successful suit
In the legal world, proof is everything. Accordingly, there are 3 things you will need to prove in order to win your suit.
Your lawyer had a legal duty (called duty of care) to legally represent you.
If you signed a contract for his or her legal services, this is all the proof you need. Hence, this part is relatively easy to prove.
Your lawyer explicitly breached their legal duty.
Here, you will need to prove that your lawyer’s legal services were unquestionably of poor standard (called standard of care), as compared to other lawyers with similar knowledge, skills, and in a similar situation. As you can well imagine, this has a lot of grey areas and is hence not as easy to prove.
Your lawyer’s negligence clearly caused financial loss to you.
This is the toughest aspect to prove. For instance, consider that you were wrongfully terminated, and despite your legal contract, your lawyer missed the deadline to file a suit on your behalf.
This can be considered a breach of contract. But you will also need to prove that had the suit been filed on time, you would have won the case, and you would have been financially compensated by your ex-employer.
In summary, suing your lawyer for legal malpractice and proving it in court, can be a challenging endeavor, but not impossible. If you are able to provide clear proof of breach of contract and financial loss incurred due to this breach, you may have a potentially successful case.
Experienced Legal Malpractice Attorney in California
If you believe your lawyer in California has committed legal malpractice, get in touch with Makarem and Associates via email at [email protected] or phone at 310.312.0299 to protect your rights. Makarem and Associates is an established and experienced law firm with a track record of successful legal malpractice cases. Call us now!