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How to avoid legal malpractice before it happens

When you hire an attorney, you give that attorney your trust. You have a legal concern you need resolved—such as a business dispute, harassment claim or personal injury case—and you need your lawyer to resolve it in your favor. At the very least, you expect your attorney to do his or her best.

Unfortunately, that’s not always what happens. Your attorney may not do his or her best. You may not even get a fair shake at the best outcome. And when that happens, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice case. Except that can mean locking yourself into additional months or years of litigation. So, how can you tell if your lawyer might not give your case the full effort?

3 warning signs for legal malpractice

According to the American Bar Association, most attorneys who commit legal malpractice make the same three types of mistakes. Knowing these warning signs may help you avoid the attorneys who would more likely fail you:

  • The attorney is overworked. Overworked attorneys may not put enough time into discovering the facts of your case. They may miss deadlines. They may overlook key points of communication, leaving you in the dark when you should be making important decisions. If you get the sense your attorney is overworked, you may want to cut ties early.
  • The attorney is inexperienced. Even veteran attorneys may suffer from inexperience when they dabble outside their key practice areas. You want your attorney to understand all the applicable codes, case law and processes. A business law attorney may not be ready to tackle your divorce.
  • The attorney is overeager. Your attorney should take the time to get to know you and your case. You should expect some probing questions. If your attorney agrees to take your case without even really understanding it, you can’t expect solid representation later.

In the end, there are many ways attorneys can commit malpractice. They can sink cases by missing deadlines, by dabbling in legal areas they don’t fully understand and by failing to pursue the best possible strategy due to a conflict of interests.

Watch for the red flags to avoid ongoing legal struggles

If you meet with an attorney who flashes any of the red flags above, you may want to look elsewhere. You may be able to recover your damages through a legal malpractice case, but that takes time. It’s in your best interest to win your case the first time around.