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Billing issues at the heart of many CA legal malpractice claims

No California attorney can reasonably be expected to perform for a client at a super-human level. Like everybody else, lawyers – even good ones – occasionally make mistakes.

Sometimes, though, those errors become a problem. They might be multiple and/or material, serving as catalysts that personally harm and undercut a client’s case.

California legal officials require every licensed lawyer in the state to practice with due competence and at a level that is customarily observed in other attorneys representing clients with reasonable skill and diligence.

Many factors can enter into the equation for testing due care and competence in a given case. A few posed questions underscore that. Following are some representative queries.

Did an attorney fail to reasonably communicate with a client concerning case strategy or progress? Did legal counsel breach client confidentiality by disclosing case details to a third party? Does counsel personally have a conflict of interest in a represented matter? Have key deadlines been missed? Has relevant case law been misunderstood or applied incorrectly?

And then there is this, which can easily end up becoming the central inquiry in a legal malpractice claim filed by a client: Did a lawyer or law firm engage in material billing irregularities or improprieties?

Billing-linked contention is often at the heart of attorney-client disputes, especially when clients cannot sensibly fathom fee amounts and what they pertain to.

A recent article on lawyer billing and related problems that can spur a client’s legal malpractice action readily stresses that. It notes that late entries, vagueness, unexpectedly high charges and other factors can reasonably fuel client discontent and suspicion regarding expenses. General imprecision instantly undercuts credibility and understandably injects friction into an attorney-client relationship.

California clients clearly have a reasonable right to assume that their legal counsel is dealing with them ethically and accurately concerning case fees and expenses. An individual harboring uncertainty regarding that point can reach out to an experienced legal malpractice attorney for advice and, when necessary, diligent representation.

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