Legal malpractice can have devastating consequences for the attorney's client. Most of the time, even if the client was clearly a victim of legal malpractice, there's no second chance at a different outcome in court.
How do you determine when you're the client that your attorney may not be properly handling your case? The inside world of the courthouse can be difficult to follow and confusing, so knowledge is power.
If you're worried about potential legal malpractice, look for these signs:
- You suspect or know that your attorney is suffering from addiction, alcoholism or has symptoms of withdrawal from either drugs or alcohol while working with you.
- Your attorney misses an important deadline which is detrimental or even fatal to your case. Barring some major catastrophe, that simply shouldn't happen.
- The attorney took you on as a client because you are a relative or a friend or a "friend of a friend," and your case isn't an area of law with which he or she is familiar. For example, while all attorneys study criminal law, you don't want an estate lawyer handling your criminal case just because he or she is an attorney. That would be like seeing a neurologist when you really need an oncologist just because they're both doctors. As a layperson, you can be forgiven if you don't know that an attorney is out of his or her depth. The attorney is expected to turn you away when he or she can't handle your case.
- Your attorney has a potential conflict of interest that could affect your case. For example, if you are accused of a crime and your accused co-conspirator is paying your attorney's fees, you might question whether the attorney has your best interests in mind during plea negotiations or the best interests of the person paying him or her. Similarly, if you hire an attorney regarding a land deal and you find out that he or she has stock in the company to which you're leasing or selling your land, that could be a conflict.
Professional malpractice is a serious issue, and you have a right to ask those who commit it to repay you for your losses. If you think that you may be a victim of professional legal malpractice, it's wise to discuss your situation with an expert.
Source: apps.Americanbar.org, "The Top Ten Malpractice Traps and How to Avoid Them," accessed Dec. 11, 2017