It’s a fact that most lawsuits settle. Many settle well before they ever see a day in court. So, if you file a legal malpractice suit, should you expect your former attorney to settle?
The answer is “maybe.” Your former attorney may recognize how his or her service fell short, how it damaged your case and how, in turn, you suffered real damages. As a result, this former attorney may want to reach a reasonable settlement. But he or she should know that settlement needs to meet the standards set by the California Rules of Professional Conduct.
According to the Rules, California attorneys should not:
- Take you as a client only if you sign a waiver intended to limit your ability to file a legal malpractice suit
- Settle your legal malpractice claim without making sure you have an attorney to represent you or are clearly advised in writing to get another attorney’s opinion and then are given time to do so
In short, it’s a big conflict of interest for your former attorney to resolve your legal malpractice claim against him or her if you don’t have someone else to vouch for your interests. It’s potentially enough of a problem that you could have reason to file a malpractice suit for the settlement itself.
After all, such a settlement could easily meet the requirements for legal malpractice, as it might involve:
- An attorney’s wrongdoing
- Damage to your case, in the form of a reduced settlement, or one that’s burdened by cumbersome terms and stipulations
Since the Rules about settlements are quite clear, you would expect every lawyer to follow them. Especially since violations could easily lead to larger problems. But if you have ethics violations at the heart of your malpractice claim, your attorney might simply hope to use one ethics violation to cover up the other.
The California State Bar knows you deserve dedicated counsel
The California State Bar works to protect consumers. Its Rules for Professional Conduct set the standards that lawyers must follow to do right by their clients.
Once you know the standards, you can protect yourself from further bad actions. Then you can pursue your claim with an attorney ready to represent your interests—not those of your former attorney.