Almost everyone knows what medical malpractice is. It means that someone in the medical field didn’t act appropriately or was negligent in treating their patient. In the same respect, legal malpractice is when someone doesn’t represent their client appropriately or does something that goes against the ethics that are required when they represent the court.
Legal malpractice is displayed when a lawyer acts against the standard of practice required of them in their professional or ethical conduct.
Suing your attorney
When a lawyer agrees to defend someone they enter into a contract, which means that they have an obligation to provide a defense to the best of their ability. Attorneys who engage in malpractice either behave negligently or do not conduct themselves by the legal code of ethics.
If you believe that your lawyer has gone against the rules outlined in the Rules of Professional Conduct, then you might have a case to sue your attorney for legal malpractice.
If you are going to bring a case, it is imperative that you have the proper evidence to prove that you have been the victim of malpractice and that you would have won your case had your lawyer been competent.
For you to file a claim for legal malpractice, you have to prove the following:
- The lawyer was not a skillful or competent representative on your behalf
- The lawyer who defended you made careless mistakes which caused you to lose your case
- The lawyer was in breach of contract, which caused you harm or injury
- The harm that you suffered resulted in financial loss
Knowing the language
If you want to sue for legal malpractice, there are some definitions that you will need to know. They are the grounds to winning a legal malpractice suit.
Commingling – This is when an attorney combines funds of his employer, beneficiary, or client with his own funds. That is grounds to sue for a fiduciary breach of your relationship.
Conflict of Interest – A conflict of interest arises when a lawyer is engaging in two competing duties. That means that their entanglements can have an adverse effect on the person they are representing.
Fiduciary – When someone who is in a position of authority makes himself responsible for acting on behalf of another individual under the guise of using good faith, loyalty, obligation, or out of candor.
Neglect – When someone disregards the duties they have to the person that they are supposed to be representing through acts of indifference, willfulness, or carelessness.
The biggest hurdle in making a case for legal malpractice is proving it. Not only must there be a breach of one of the four categories mentioned above, but there also has to be specific proof and the ability of an individual to show causation that it resulted in an adverse ruling. A client must be able to prove that if they had different representation, the case would have been decided upon differently.
In addition, the grounds for defining your attorney’s actions are difficult to quantify. In instances of neglect, for example, although your attorney refused to return your phone calls, that might not be a cause for neglect.
There are specific guidelines that dictate the legal ethics that a lawyer must conduct themselves by. Before any attorney is allowed to practice law, they have to agree to uphold the Rules of Professional Conduct, which were adopted in 1983 by the American Bar Association. These are agreed-upon rules that every state, with the exception of California, abides by. California has its own set rules of ethics and conduct.
If you believe that your lawyer has engaged in legal malpractice, it is imperative that you have the right documentation to prove it. You should then appeal to your state bar association to see if you have a case or not. If there was a more egregious act of misconduct, then you might want to consider filing a legal malpractice suit against your lawyer.