Top Reasons Clients Sue for Lawyer Malpractice
People don’t like lawyers. They don’t like lawsuits. They don’t like courtrooms. There really is not much about the law or the court system that people really do enjoy. Lawyers that don’t return phone calls, over-bill their clients, or are just downright rude don’t really help the profession very much.
Lawyers who steal money from their clients, miss important deadlines, or just don’t care about the case, on the other hand, disparage the entire legal system. Attorney malpractice is the nasty big elephant in the room whenever there is a dispute between an attorney and her client, no matter how trivial the disagreement may be. In this litigious society of ours, no one is more cognizant of the risk of a lawsuit than lawyers themselves.
Last year, LegalMatch.com received thousands of potential clients seeking a malpractice claim against their former attorney. The majority of these claims were for your usual shenanigans:
- 12% said they failed to return the client’s money
- 20% of respondents claimed their attorneys failed to file their lawsuit on time.
- 29% said they failed to understand the law related to the case
Perhaps most interesting: 37% said their lawyers failed to get the result they had promised them.
Here is a big tip: If you walk into an attorney’s office and they say “If you hire me, I promise you that your case will turn out this way, guaranteed,” run away fast. You might have the easiest case in the world, but no one in this business should ever guarantee anything, ever. Even worse, proving a malpractice case for not getting the result promised would not be very easy.
All malpractice lawsuits are complicated and difficult to win. This translates into a very high bill for your lawyer’s services should you want to pursue a malpractice claim. The best thing you can do to avoid this nightmare is hire a good attorney from the get go. Not just an attorney with the credentials, but an attorney with a good reputation. However, legal matters are often highly personal. It is not easy to just call your friend and spill the beans in order to get a trusted referral. So what else can you do?
There are numerous easy steps you can take to ensure you are hiring a reputable lawyer. For instance, many states display an attorney’s disciplinary record online. In California, every attorney is listed on the State Bar website, and their disciplinary record is at the bottom of the page. You can also request the full discipline record for every attorney from the State Bar in writing. Although not every disciplinary charge is as serious as the next one, each one should be investigated and taken into consideration when you hire your attorney.
Your second resource is a little less obvious but extremely easy: the all powerful Google. Put the attorney’s name in quotes and search away, you may be surprised what you find. A caveat, however: take everything with a grain of salt. Not everyone understands why their case was lost, or why the judge gave them a harsh sentence. It is not always the lawyer’s fault, even though it may seem that way. Also remember that John Smith, Esq. may have the same name as John Smith, party animal. Use your better judgment to weed out the useless or irrelevant information.
Hiring your lawyer is the first big step in your case, and it may be the most important decision you will make on your own. Do it right and do it once.
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