One of the important features of the American justice system is attorney-client privilege. The privilege ensures that you can speak candidly with your lawyer and not worry that confidential matters will be revealed.
We recently read a column in a Los Angeles county publication that explores an interesting facet of the privilege. A reader wrote the paper, saying that they have what they believe to be "a strong malpractice case" against their lawyer, but wonder if a legal malpractice lawsuit will open up to scrutiny their private communications with him.
The answer to the question comes from California Evidence Code Section 958 and it is clear: yes, your private communications with your former lawyer would be opened up to scrutiny in a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Another reader asked what they need to demonstrate to prove that their lawyer committed legal malpractice.
The answer here is in two parts. The first involves whether or not your former attorney failed to use skill and care that a reasonable lawyer would have exercised in a similar set of circumstances. The second element to consider is just as important: if your former lawyer had not committed malpractice, would you have gotten a better result in your case?
In other words, did the malpractice cause you harm?
In many situations, malpractice causes harm when critical legal documents are not filed on time. In other situations, improper legal advice and legal errors cause irreparable harm.
A conversation with an attorney experienced in legal malpractice litigation can help clear up these questions and others in your case.