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Trusting America’s Lawyers


lionel-hutzLawyers get a bad rap.  The public often sees attorneys as conniving opportunistic people who are only out to make a quick dollar by capitalizing on the misery of others.  Ask most people to describe what they think the typical attorney is and you’ll likely get the stereotypical view of the fast-talking imposing dark-suited figure with slicked back hair and a total lack of morals.

The media doesn’t help this image either.  For every Atticus Fitch, there is a multitude of Lilah Morgans.  It’s no wonder then why so many distrust attorneys.  With a reputation like that, who would ever want to deal with one, let alone be forced to hire one to represent them?

Though as bad as a Lilah Morgan can be, what hurts the image of attorneys more are the Lionel Hutzes, the incompetent lawyer who takes your money and does absolutely nothing in return.  This image is in many ways much worst then the evil money-grubbing one.  Chances are most people would rather have an amoral competent attorney than an amoral idiotic attorney.  Couple this fear with the terrifying prospect of actually being involved in a legal dispute where the only way out is to retain a lawyer, and you’ve just described hell.

This fear can be described in two simple words: legal malpractice.  This horrible phrase inevitably lingers in the back of the mind of every person who has hired a lawyer.  Because poor representation not only means you’ll likely lose whatever legal issue you’re involved in, but it also means that you’ll probably have to deal with the expensive headache of cleaning up your lawyer’s mess afterward.  Not to mention the additional nightmare of bringing a new lawsuit against your old attorney.  To some people, this prospect is enough for them to want to represent themselves rather than to retain a lawyer.

But is legal malpractice really something you should be afraid of?  Yes, it is.  But is it really all that likely to occur?  Probably not.

Legal malpractice isn’t as common as the public may think.  Lawyers are subject to constant scrutiny, from the court, their respective state bars in the form of continuing education, and their clients.  Furthermore, the process of becoming a lawyer is no easy task in of itself.  To be admitted into law school takes top grades and a high LSAT score, not to mention the three years it takes just to finish law school.

In fact, the total number of legal malpractice cases handled by in California alone is on average 50 percent less then the number of medical malpractice cases handled in just the northern half of California.  This statistic is true almost uniformly across the board.  Personal injury, family law, even wrongful termination cases on average total more in number than legal malpractice cases.  In a sense, it’s much easier to find a good attorney, than it is to locate a good doctor, employer, or spouse!


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