A career in the legal industry requires a high degree of professionalism, as well as adherence to certain rules and regulations. If an attorney fails to meet the standards of their industry and their client suffers as a result, the attorney may be held liable for legal malpractice.
Legal malpractice typically occurs when a lawyer’s action, or inaction, causes a loss for their client. Filing a malpractice action against the attorney can help a client recoup their losses and recover compensation. Not every mistake counts as malpractice, but when an attorney is negligent and that negligence causes you harm, you may have a case.
Following are six of the most common attorney mistakes that can lead to malpractice.
1. Missed deadlines
In the legal profession, missing a deadline can have negative consequences for a client. Failure to file documents on time can mean anything from a client having to pay late filing fees to having an entire case thrown out of court. Or, if an attorney fails to schedule certain important meetings or dates, a client can miss important meetings and hearings – which can lead to default judgements against a client without their knowledge.
2. Misuse of client finances
Clients typically pay their attorney a retainer, which is supposed to be put into a trust account. If an attorney uses this money for personal or other expenses, this can be construed as financial misappropriation of funds. In the worst case scenario, an attorney might outright steal funds from their clients.
3. Inadequate discovery
When a lawyer takes on a client, they make an implied promise that they will put in the proper time and effort to investigate the circumstances and details of the case. This part of the process is called “discovery,” and is how attorneys put together the evidence to build a client’s case. If an attorney fails to conduct proper investigation and discovery, they may miss details vital to the case, which may cause their client losses.
4. Lack of communication
One of the keys to the attorney-client relationship is open communication. Failure to communicate is also one of the most common reasons clients sue their attorneys for legal malpractice. If a lawyer does not inform a client of their rights, legal options, or other important information relevant to their case, a client can lose out on the legal relief they are owed. Lack of communication also includes failure to return calls, emails, or show up for scheduled meetings or hearings.
5. Failure to apply the law
It should go without saying that a lawyer is expected to have a knowledge of the law in which they practice, and how to correctly apply that law to a client’s case. If an attorney does not understand current law, misinterprets it, or applies it incorrectly, they may be liable for legal malpractice.
6. Conflict of interest
Conflict of interest occurs when an attorney puts their own interests ahead of their client’s, or puts one client’s interests over the needs of another. Examples of conflict of interest include: a personal relationship with a member of the opposing party, representing two parties with conflicting interests, failure to provide full disclosure, professional misconduct, or questionable payment plans.
These are only a few examples of how attorney mistakes and unprofessionalism can lead to legal malpractice. Please don’t hesitate to consult with our law firm if you believe you are a victim of attorney malpractice.