You hired a lawyer because you needed expert legal representation. You got hurt in a car crash, and you needed to bring a civil suit against the driver responsible. Maybe you were driving and needed to defend yourself against accusations from someone else. People also need attorneys to negotiate contracts or even defend them against criminal charges.
Regardless of why you hire your attorney, you trust them to fulfill their obligation and provide good advice and adequate legal representation. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.
How attorney mistakes impact your case
Lawyers are humans who can make the same mistakes the rest of us can. They can forget to do adequate research. They may not put an important deadline for filing paperwork with the courts on their agenda, meaning that a case passes the statute of limitations or simply can't move forward because of a failure to file.
An attorney can even put their own personal financial interests ahead of yours by knowingly giving you bad advice or pushing you to an investment you would not otherwise have made that benefits them or someone they have a relationship with. In those situations, you may be able to work with a different attorney to recoup some of the money you paid for inadequate representation via a legal malpractice lawsuit.
What is legal malpractice?
Most people have at least heard the term "medical malpractice," which involves a doctor making decisions that negatively impact the patient's health. Fewer people are familiar with legal malpractice, although the general concept is the same. It involves an attorney giving bad advice or performing their job so poorly that it has a negative effect on their client.
From unnecessary incarceration to the financial consequences of a bad investment, there are many potential impacts caused by inadequate, negligent or improper legal representation. If you can show that an attorney who is competent at their job would have done something differently than your lawyer, or if you can show that their failure in a certain area had a direct negative impact on your case, you may be able to make a claim of legal malpractice.
Similarly, if an attorney violates their fiduciary duty to you, that can also provide grounds for a legal malpractice claim.
What is fiduciary duty?
Fiduciary duty is the legal obligation of a professional to put the best interests of their clients before their own personal interest. For example, if you go to an attorney for advice on a business investment, they should give you honest advice.
However, if they have a financial interest in one of the companies involved or if they know someone involved in the industry, the personal bias or potential for profit can potentially lead to bad advice or even an attorney abusing their position to trick you into making a bad business decision or investment. Fiduciary duty involves critical trust between a client and a professional. When an attorney violates their fiduciary duty to you, that can be a reason to see compensation to a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Although you may not feel enthusiastic about attorneys after having one fail you, sitting down with an attorney who has experience in legal malpractice cases can help you figure out what options do you have to hold an attorney accountable for their poor performance and its impact on your life.