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Establishing legal malpractice: connecting the dots

Here’s a hypothetical to ponder.

Say that you’re a California resident who has retained an attorney to represent you in a legal matter (that aptly describes many of our readers, of course).

The quality of your legal counsel is flatly abysmal in every conceivable respect. Your lawyer has shown a shocking lack of knowledge concerning relevant legal issues. He (we’ll just go with male counsel here for the sake of narrative ease, while noting that female attorneys too can be found wanting in their performance) has missed important deadlines. He has been materially uncommunicative with you. He has been grossly unprepared to proceed at key junctures of your case. He has made concessions without first consulting with you.

Collectively, that shortcoming in performance unquestionably spells a professional breach.

Does it qualify as legal malpractice, though?

We dust off a past Glickman & Glickman blog post today to underscore this key point: Although an attorney’s representation might be objectively deemed as substandard, that sad fact alone does not automatically raise it to the level of legal malpractice.

We duly stress in an entry addressing the challenges a plaintiff must overcome to establish legal counsel’s malpractice at trial that a lawyer’s performance breach must be accompanied by something additional to qualify as malpractice.

That is this: convincing proof that “absent a lawyer’s substandard representation, [the] plaintiff would likely have prevailed in a legal contest.”

In other words, performance breach must directly link to – that is, cause – a plaintiff’s injuries.

Satisfying both prongs of that equation is a critically important and sometimes complex endeavor. A proven plaintiffs’ malpractice attorney can provide further information and valuable counsel concerning the subject matter.

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