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Does your attorney’s dishonesty qualify as legal malpractice?

When you hired an attorney to represent you, you likely assumed that they would fulfill their duties with honesty and integrity. Yet, you might have discovered that your attorney lied to you – or in the courtroom – at various points throughout your case. If your case’s verdict was unfavorable, you likely feel duped, as well as concerned for your attorney’s future clients. Their behavior could qualify as legal malpractice, and it’s important to take legal action if it meets this threshold.

Honesty is the policy

The State Bar of California holds attorneys to strict ethical rules, laid out in its Rules of Professional Conduct. Among these is Rule 8.4, which pertains to attorney misconduct. Attorneys can face consequences for violating this both in a professional capacity and as a private citizen.

Under this rule, an attorney cannot engage in conduct that involves:

  • Deceit
  • Dishonesty
  • Fraud
  • Intentional misrepresentation
  • Reckless misrepresentation

The Rules of Professional Conduct also contain other specific rules related to the honesty of attorneys. Rule 3.3 requires attorneys to demonstrate honesty to the tribunal – which includes judges. And Rule 4.1 requires attorneys, in representing their clients, to be truthful in their statements to third parties.

When lying becomes legal malpractice

If your former attorney’s lies violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, you will want to consider filing a legal malpractice claim against them. In making a claim, you must prove that:

  • Your attorney’s lies meet the threshold for negligence
  • Your attorney’s negligence affected the outcome of your case

Attorneys who lie to their clients, a tribunal or a third party could face serious repercussions for their dishonesty. Depending on the nature and impact of their falsehoods, they will likely be disciplined by the State Bar of California. To hold your former attorney accountable, you will want to seek the help of a legal malpractice professional.