How to Recognize Legal Malpractice

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Samuel McTyre with McTyre Gutierrez PLLC.

How to Recognize Legal Malpractice

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Samuel McTyre, a Family Law attorney based in Virginia.

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Any industry may be subject to malpractice; however, when malpractice occurs in industries like medicine or law, people often find their lives and livelihoods on the line. While medical malpractice may be identifiable based on the patient’s treatment and physical symptoms, legal malpractice can be harder to recognize to the untrained eye. Legal malpractice can result in lost claims, poor recoveries, fraud, and more, not to mention the stress of realizing that your legal representation does not have your best interest at heart. If you or a loved one have suffered from legal malpractice, it’s important to begin seeking out a more reputable lawyer to see what can be done for your current claim, as well as assessing whether or not you want to file a malpractice claim against the negligent lawyer in question.

The following signs may indicate legal malpractice:

  • Long delays in responding to client phone calls, emails, questions, etc.
  • Inflexibility regarding meetings, appointments, scheduling, etc.
  • Requesting money or payment up front that is inconsistent with practice area standards (i.e. most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, and do not charge up front)
  • Failing to provide direct answers in regard to billing questions
  • Missing important deadlines
  • Refusing or failing to explain legal concepts, practices, or procedures
  • Failing to obtain informed consent from the client before making decisions regarding a case
  • Poor or inadequate investigation into the claim or evidence for the claim
  • You would have succeeded in your claim if the lawyer had applied proper effort

Depending on the situation, you may or may not want to pursue a malpractice claim against the lawyer in question.

Filing a legal malpractice claim against a potentially negligent lawyer can be costly and difficult. The value of the original case, money spent, and degree of malpractice should all be carefully weighed before deciding how to proceed. It’s important to save and document any and all communications with a potentially negligent lawyer should you choose to take action in the future, seeking out a new lawyer to hire as you do so.

When you have found a new, more trustworthy lawyer, it’s a good idea to hire them before officially firing the bad lawyer; this puts the challenging responsibility of collecting any evidence, paperwork, or other documentation for your case on the shoulders of the new lawyer so that you don’t have to try and deal with the negligent lawyer on your own.

If the case was not of high value to begin with, and/or you didn’t lose money or much due to the legal malpractice, it may not be worth it to file a legal malpractice claim due to the time, money, and effort that typically go into that type of case. However, if you already spent considerable money on the first lawyer, lost your case due to their malpractice, or feel passionate enough for another reason to validate pursuing a claim against the negligent lawyer, it’s important to seek out an experienced malpractice attorney to discuss your options for recovery.

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