Your lawyer owes you and your case a certain standard of service. This isn’t just because of professional courtesy; it’s the law.
All attorneys in California need to meet the standards outlined in the California Rules of Professional Conduct. If your attorney doesn’t—and your case suffers as a result—you may have grounds for a legal malpractice case. But how should you know what to look for?
Did your attorney betray your trust?
Every legal malpractice case begins when an attorney neglects his or her duties or otherwise betrays a client’s trust. So, how can you identify these betrayals of trust?
For starters, you might consider the top five reasons for legal malpractice claims listed by the American Bar Association (ABA):
- A failure to apply substantive law. Substantive law is the part of the law that relates to your rights and obligations. The laws can be extremely detailed, and an attorney’s strategy must accurately account for all the law’s details. If your attorney overlooks a detail, you may lose your case. The ABA reported that these failures accounted for nearly half of all legal malpractice claims.
- Missed tasks and deadlines. According to the ABA, roughly 28.5% of all malpractice claims owed to administrative errors such as missed deadlines and bad math. Firms may delegate tasks and fail to notify the person they assigned, or they may fail to mark appointments on their calendars.
- Fraud and other intentional wrongdoing. Your attorney is supposed to represent your interests, but some just don’t. Fraud and other direct abuses of attorney trust make up roughly 12% of all legal malpractice claims.
- Bad client relations. The ABA notes several types of errors within this category. Attorneys may ignore their client’s wishes, fail to get their client’s consent or neglect to inform their clients about certain steps in their cases. Your attorney should also help you understand your responsibilities, as well as any deadlines you must meet.
- Conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest can be harder to spot than you might expect. It’s rare that your attorney will have a direct business relationship with your opponent, but that’s not the only type of conflict. Any relationship that could compromise your attorney’s dedication might qualify.
Betrayals of trust such as these—or others—may serve as proof your attorney didn’t meet his or her professional responsibilities. That’s not the whole a legal malpractice case, but it’s a critical step.
Do you have a legal malpractice claim?
If you have reason to believe your attorney’s bad actions harmed your case, you want experienced counsel. You may stand to recover the money or other damages your attorney’s bad actions cost you.