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Legal Malpractice Resources
This is an amazing resource for victims of legal malpractice: (Halt)
What Constitutes Legal Malpractice?
Legal malpractice is less well-known by most people than is medical malpractice. However, legal malpractice cases can be just as serious as are their medical counterparts. They have potentially far-reaching impact upon the lives of people who have been involved in a legal battle that ended unfavorably due to incompetency or intentional misrepresentation on behalf of the attorney(s) who represented them.
When you hire a legal professional, you have the right to expect capable and effective representation. However, sometimes this standard is not met. When these expectations are not reasonably met, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice claim. Legal malpractice can take many forms. While each case is different, in general, the following kinds of negligence constitutes legal malpractice:
- Failure to file a motion on time
- Failure to show for court hearing
- Over billing
- Mistakes or errors in writing legal documents or contracts
- Violation of fiduciary responsibility
- Failure to file before statute of limitation goes into effect
- Ignoring client’s wishes regarding negotiations or legal options
- Forgetting to introduce important evidence at trial
- An attorney’s failure to obtain witnesses or experts to appear
If you believe that your case was compromised by poor, negligent legal representation, contact a legal malpractice attorney immediately to discuss your case. Just like medical malpractice claims, legal malpractice claims have a statute of limitations (a specific time period) to file your claim.
Finding a Legal Malpractice Attorney
Do you believe that you have a legal malpractice case against your attorney?
These kinds of cases are very delicate and difficult, because these cases basically pit two lawyers against one another they are not common. The client needs to be able to use one lawyer to show that the previous lawyer did not adequately provide legal service.
In addition to finding a lawyer to represent you against your previous lawyer, you will need yet another lawyer to testify as an expert witness verifying that there was in fact legal malpractice. Getting a lawyer to testify as an expert witness against a colleague can be very difficult, plaintiffs’ legal malpractice lawyers say.
Think of lawyers as being part of a club. How many lawyers want to sue a colleague of theirs? Not many! It’s kind of like the hen guarding the hen house. Many lawyers refuse to take cases that require them to sue other lawyers, yet they have no problem suing a doctor, a builder, a negligent motorist, etc. By bringing lawsuits, lawyers have caused some improvements in making products safer, operating rooms safer, and our roads safer. Lawyers can make courtrooms safer too by zealously suing incompetent lawyers as they do in all the other litigation that they bring.
For all of the above reasons, this is an area of law that proves to be difficult for the plaintiff to find an attorney. The legal malpractice attorney must be very well versed in many, many areas of the law.
The best resource for finding a legal malpractice attorney is by calling your county or state bar for a referral in this very specialized area of law.
Last year more than 35,000 victims initiated claims against lawyers who had legal malpractice insurance. Of those victims, 12,000 people successfully recovered money. These claims are only the tip of the iceberg because they only represent negligence claims against insured attorneys.
How to Report Legal Malpractice to the Board
If you believe your attorney is guilty of malpractice or unethical conduct in the handling of your legal issues, there is a mechanism available to you through which you can report this lawyer. Each state maintains an agency (associated with both the bar association and highest court in the state) that oversees the conduct of attorneys in the performance of their professional duties. Through this agency you can lodge a formal complaint against your lawyer.
Things You’ll Need: Complaint form
Telephone the office of the Supreme Court (or the highest appellate court in your state) and obtain the contact information for the attorney disciplinary agency.
Step 2 Obtain a copy of the formal complaint form regarding attorney misconduct or malpractice from the attorney disciplinary agency. In all states you can request this form by telephone. In most states you can download the form from the agency’s website.
Step 3 Gather and organize all supporting documentation relating to your claim of attorney misconduct. These materials need to accompany your completed complaint form.
Step 4 Complete all sections of the formal complaint form to the best of your ability. If you do not have information for a particular section, or if that section is not applicable to your situation, make a notation. Do not leave any portion of the complaint form blank or you run the risk of it being returned to you.
Step 5 Deliver the completed form to the attorney disciplinary agency. Some agencies offer people the ability to complete the form online. If you do fill out the complaint form online keep in mind that you need to send any supporting documentation directly to the agency.
Interesting Legal Malpractice Facts
Selecting the right attorney is very important. If you make the wrong choice and your lawyer fails you, your chances of recourse against your lawyer are just as poor as with your doctor. Only a minute percentage of American lawyers formally charged after a complaint are disciplined under the super secret processes followed in each state. The disciplinary boards are composed of lawyers, of course. According to a 2007 American Bar Association study, the number of legal malpractice cases worth $2 million or more jumped 60 percent between 1996 and 2003. The number of claims under $10,000 rose by just 8 percent in the same period. Close to 70 percent of malpractice suits were lodged against solo practitioners or members of firms with 10 lawyers or fewer, the segment of the attorney population most likely to be without malpractice insurance. Are measures designed to protect legal consumers against unethical lawyers working?
- A 2006 American Bar Association survey found that out of 123,927 complaints, only 3.5 percent led to formal discipline and less than one percent resulted in disbarment.
- Of these 123,927 complaints, 92 percent led to no discipline or only informal slaps on the wrist in the form of “private sanctions.”
- According to a 2002 HALT study, in 50 states (including the District of Columbia), lawyers make up at least two-thirds of the committee adjudicating attorney discipline complaints.
Experts say most lawyers found guilty of wrongdoing, even committing serious felonies, usually escape with suspension or even verbal reprimands and restitution of some sort. Source: Frank J. Murray, “Practitioners Almost Bulletproof When it Comes to Client Complaints,” Washington Times, July 20, 2000. If you like to know where your state ranks in disciplining its attornneys, (click here to see chart)