What Is Legal Malpractice?
Published on:January 25, 2018

Legal malpractice is something that could happen to a company or an individual, and it can have devastating results. When a person or entity hires an attorney, it is done so with the utmost trust. There is never a question in that client’s mind that the attorney will work in the client’s best interests. But when an attorney betrays that trust, the end result can take years to fix and cause a great deal of financial damage.

What Is Legal Malpractice?

Legal malpractice can either be a case of ineptitude, or it can be purposeful negligence. An attorney could mishandle a case so badly that it causes damage to their client, or the attorney could seek to cause harm to their client by misrepresenting their case. Legal malpractice is not used to punish attorneys who forget to file forms or who fill out paperwork incorrectly. It must be a case of either willful negligence or incompetence that results in serious damage.

The Attorney-Client Relationship

The first step in proving legal malpractice is firmly establishing that there was an attorney-client relationship. This is actually much more difficult than it sounds. If there was a contract between the attorney and the client, then that makes proving the professional relationship much easier.

But many times a client will simply take on an attorney without any kind of official documentation. There would be documentation pertaining to the case, but not necessarily the relationship. But if the attorney offered legal advice and the client used the services of the attorney to move forward with a legal proceeding, then that is enough to establish the relationship.

Willful Negligence Or Incompetence

When a doctor commits medical malpractice, the patient often notices thanks to pain or some other medical issue that arises. But when there is legal malpractice, the client may never notice until the full damage is done. The attorney could be knowingly or unknowingly filing information to the courts that the client would never see until a legal problem arose.

Attorneys cannot guarantee results and clients should not expect any guarantees when they hire an attorney. The only way a client can protect themselves from legal malpractice is to seek a second legal opinion if they feel that there is something inappropriate going on. Since most clients are not legal experts, detecting legal malpractice can be extremely difficult.

Proving Damage

The final phase of a legal malpractice case is proving that the actions of the offending attorney caused the client some sort of measurable damage. In most cases, that damage is financial. In some cases, the attorney might cause their client to be arrested on false charges and that could be the basis of the legal malpractice case. In order to bring a legal malpractice case to court, the client has to prove that their financial or other type of misfortune was the direct result of the attorney’s actions.

Any person who suspects that they are the victim of legal malpractice should hire an experience firm to handle their case immediately. The longer you wait to have your case reviewed for possible negligence, the more difficult it will be to prove that your attorney did not act in your best interests.