If everything in the law was easy to understand and there were no gray areas, nobody would need lawyers – but that’s not how things work. The average person has no choice but to rely on professional legal guidance when they have a conflict they cannot resolve on their own.
What happens, however, when things don’t go the way that a client expects? Because legal cases often involve “winners” and “losers,” a negative outcome in a case doesn’t automatically mean that someone is the victim of legal malpractice… but it could.
Here’s what legal malpractice might look like
Legal malpractice means that an attorney has failed to provide services that meet the minimum standard of care for someone with their level of training or skill and some harm has come to their client as a result.
Legal malpractice can involve:
- Failing to file documents: There are statutes of limitations on almost every issue that’s brought before the law, and an attorney who lets a deadline pass without filing proper documents may permanently end their client’s opportunity to act.
- Handling something they’re not qualified to handle: The law is a big arena, and few attorneys are adept in every area. If a family law attorney takes on a real estate case, for example, their incompetence could deeply disadvantage the client.
- Abandonment of a client: This could involve simply not communicating with the client about important issues until deadlines have passed, not being responsive to the client’s questions or simply not showing up in court when expected – leaving the client without representation at some critical stage.
- Failure to convey information: If the opposing party makes an offer to settle a case, an attorney is duty-bound to convey that offer to the client (even if they think the offer is terrible). When an attorney takes decision-making authority away from the client, that can definitely be malpractice.
- Failure to follow instructions: Similarly, attorneys are duty-bound to follow their clients’ wishes so long as they are not in violation of the law. When an attorney “goes rogue” and decides they know what is best, they’re no longer properly representing their client’s interests.
These are just some examples of how legal malpractice can occur. If you believe that you’ve been victimized by a prior advocate’s mistakes, it may be time to explore new options by seeking legal guidance from an attorney who practices legal malpractice law.