Recognizing Signs of Legal Malpractice

Jan 14, 2022 | Commercial Litigation

Since legal malpractice cases involve varying degrees of complexity, proving them can often be challenging. While no attorney looks forward to suing another from the same fraternity, there are many who’re willing to fight for your rights. What also helps is that you exercise some degree of caution when dealing with a new attorney.

Affected Areas of Practice

Legal malpractice can occur in transactional and litigation matters, and they take place across different practice areas such as commercial litigation, real estate litigation, civil litigation, taxation, contract drafting, and personal injury.

Bear in mind that while legal malpractice cases take place across different practice areas, some are more prone than others. For instance, an American Bar Association (ABA) study shows that legal malpractice claims arising from immigration matters and settlement activities saw noticeable increases in the recent past.

Signs of Legal Malpractice

Simply losing a case in court does not amount to legal malpractice. After all, there is no guarantee of a win. However, there are signs to look out for to determine if you are or might become a victim of legal malpractice.

  • Your attorney has violated attorney-client privilege by disclosing information about your case to a third-party
  • Your attorney has accepted a settlement without seeking your prior consent
  • Your attorney has failed to inform you about important details related to your case
  • Your attorney chose to represent you despite there being a conflict of interest
  • Your attorney has misused/misappropriated your funds
  • Your attorney has overcharged or overbilled you
  • Your attorney has missed filing deadlines or statute of limitations
  • There are errors in your legal documents

Common Errors Attorneys Make

Even the best have their off days. While attorneys can make errors from time to time, it’s a problem when mistakes cannot be corrected and lead to unwarranted consequences. Most errors that result in cases of legal malpractice fall under one of four categories.

  • Substantive errors. These include errors in drafting legal documents/contracts, failure to meet deadlines, not knowing or applying the law, and insufficient research.
  • Client-relation errors. ABA lists poor client relations as a top malpractice trap for attorneys, and for good reason. This is because attorneys may fail to follow their clients’ instructions properly, fail to pass on relevant information, fail to seek their consent, or fail to inform them about administrative/legal procedures.
  • Administrative errors. These may include missing statute of limitations, failing to file documents, failing to file a lawsuit, clerical errors, or any errors related to delegation of tasks.
  • Conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might take place if an attorney holds a personal stake in your case or has represented the opposing party in the past.
  • Intentional wrongdoing. A fraudulent act, misuse of your resources, violation of your civil rights, and abusing legal procedures account as intentional wrongdoing on part of an attorney.

Conclusion

While most attorneys approach their jobs diligently, morally, and ethically, there are a few not-so-good ones that try to slip through the cracks. Fortunately, legal malpractice attorneys specialize in pursuing cases against other attorneys who have been negligent or careless in their work and put the reputation of their entire field at stake.

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