Most medical doctors do their best to take care of their patients. The same can be said for an attorney who looks after the legal interests of their clients. Unfortunately, things do not always go as planned for doctors or lawyers. In the case of a lawyer, the client may be unsatisfied with a dispute’s outcome despite their lawyer’s best effort. Good attorneys lose cases all the time here in California — it becomes legal malpractice when the attorney’s work hurts the client’s interests in a way that would not have happened if another lawyer had handled the case.
Three common kinds of legal malpractice
Lawyers are as human as the rest of us and can make mistakes. Ideally, this does not have long term implications for the client, but they might. Their actions become legal malpractice when there is a conscious effort on the attorney’s part to take advantage of a client or situation to the client’s detriment. Common examples include:
- Negligence: Attorneys can get pulled in different directions simultaneously as they juggle their caseload. Mistakes leading to malpractice include missing legal deadlines for filing, filing the wrong papers, or filling them out correctly, or they did not follow the court’s orders. This is considered sloppy or negligent work that led to mistakes.
- Breach of duty: This may be where the attorney makes important legal decisions without consulting the client or going against their wishes. It can also mean misuse of funds or overcharging, abandoning the case, not preparing for trial, acting unprofessionally, or lying to the client.
- Breach of contract: This may involve failing to perform something outlined in a contract, such as filing for a patent or deed or fulfilling other administrative work the client hired them to do.
Everyone deserves legal help
The pressures of the job are enough to get to anyone. It can lead to lawyers making poor judgment calls or leaving them feeling that their lives are spinning out of control. Perhaps chemical dependency, alcohol addiction, or other mental health issues led to accusations of malpractice.
It does not make the attorney a bad person, but it does mean that they need help. This can involve getting their personal life back on track. It also means rehabilitating their legal career. Whether it is overcoming disbarment or other disciplinary action, legal representation is necessary. Doctors do not practice medicine on themselves, and attorneys should not represent themselves when facing disputes with severe professional implications.