It’s nothing that anyone expects. When you hire a lawyer, you’re expecting them to look out for your interests, to help you see justice be done and to have the guilty be held responsible. But like any other profession, there are the infamous few that may make a serious misjudgment or who choose to be willfully neglectful of their clients, and ultimately make their clients suffer for it. When this occurs, you may have been the victim of what’s called legal malpractice. But there are ways that you can deal with it.
First, let’s take a dive into the definition of legal malpractice.
How to Define Legal Malpractice
Legal malpractice may be defined in a way similar to that of medical malpractice—like a doctor, a lawyer is expected to follow their duty and to stand by a certain code of ethics and professionalism. This code can be broken by either carelessness, a lack of professionalism, or willful negligence and malicious intent. When any of these actions occur that breaks that code of ethics and professionalism, you may have a case for legal malpractice.
This is important to know because it’s not the same as your attorney putting in a good faith effort but failing to win your case. When you suspect yourself a victim of legal malpractice, ask yourself these questions:
- Has the lawyer been neglectful towards you, the client? Did the lawyer do something that would count as negligent in their duties to see this case through such as reckless behavior or making careless judgments?
- Has the attorney done something that would be a breach of contract? Has the attorney done something to deliberately violate your lawyer-client agreement?
- The American Bar Association has their own Rules of Professional Conduct. Is the lawyer doing anything that contradicts, violates, or breaks from what’s been established in the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct?
By answering these questions, your answers will need to be able to prove that your lawyer had a duty to represent you, that they did something to breach that duty, and that finally, those actions ended up causing further damage to you such as financially. It is the part of proving it all that will be very challenging, even with a legal malpractice lawyer on your side.
Proving That You’ve Been a Victim of Legal Malpractice
To prove your case, you need to show to the court proof that your lawyer had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and had acted in dereliction of duty to you as a client. Then, you must prove that you could’ve likely won your initial case had the lawyer not broken their expected code of ethics and the Rules of Professional Conduct. It sounds easy in a single paragraph, but there will be a lot of evidence gathering, and likely it will be a very costly process. Here are some steps you’ll need to take to have a possible chance of winning your legal malpractice case:
- Gather as much evidence as possible to prove that your lawyer was neglectful of their duties.
- Related to gathering evidence, be sure to save and record every document and communication with your lawyer that could aid in proving your case.
- Finally, fire your neglectful lawyer and find a new lawyer who can help you with your legal malpractice case.
Should you find yourself in a position where a malpractice case may either be unlikely or too costly, you can and should consider taking the actions needed to report the neglectful lawyer to your state’s bar association or disciplinary board. Even if you end up not pursuing a legal malpractice case, there’s a chance that a state disciplinary board can take the actions needed to ensure that that attorney does not cause further damage to anyone else.
A final consideration before you pursue a legal malpractice case or contact the state’s bar association—one should try to see if there’s the possibility of resolving the issue with your lawyer. Of course, should the lawyer prove uncooperative or do anything to cause further damage, it becomes yet another piece of evidence for your eventual case or filed complaint to the state bar association.
Find a Malpractice Lawyer Near You with TopResearched
Being wronged and suffering further damages by a professional attorney sounds unlikely, but when it happens it can be painful, embarrassing, and of course, costly. But with a legal malpractice lawyer, you’ll have the right resources to find compensation for suffering at the hands of a neglectful attorney that you thought you could trust. TopResearched uses rigid rating criteria to determine the absolute best malpractice attorneys near you, so that all you need is to simply read one of our Top Malpractice Lawyer lists to find your best options!