Strategic, Assertive Advocacy
Lawyers are members of a profession. They are licensed by the state in which they practice, and they are required to maintain good standing with the state bar to continue to be authorized to practice law in their state. As part of that good standing requirement, every state has adopted some version of the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers are held to a high standard of conduct under these rules based on the higher level of education and training they possess and the significant responsibility they have for their clients’ welfare.
In many areas of law, most particularly in litigation, a negative outcome does not necessarily mean that the lawyer did anything wrong. Determining whether malpractice occurred is an involved process. At King & Jones, our experienced Chicago legal malpractice lawyers take the time to thoroughly investigate the conduct at issue to determine whether a viable case of malpractice exists. We counsel our clients on their options and give them the best advice on how to proceed. If litigating a legal malpractice claim is in your interests, we’ll provide strategic, assertive advocacy on your behalf. Call King & Jones for consultation on a potential legal malpractice claim in Chicago or nationwide.Free Case Evaluation
What Kinds Of Conduct Give Rise To Legal Malpractice Complaints?
Lack of communication is the number one complaint that clients make about attorneys to bar associations. Rule 1.4 of the Model Rules addresses an attorney’s obligations regarding client communication. This rule, in part, states that a lawyer “shall keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter,” and “promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.” Lack of communication can provide the basis for a malpractice lawsuit.
Other common reasons for legal malpractice claims are:
Lawyer commingles client funds instead of keeping them in a separate trust account. Lawyer accepts a client’s retainer and applies those funds toward other litigation rather than the client’s cause.
FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE A SETTLEMENT OFFER
Unless the lawyer has clear direction from the client about what to accept or refuse, the lawyer should always communicate an offer to the client before acting on it.
MISSING COURT DEADLINES
Failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations can prove fatal to a client’s otherwise meritorious case. Overly busy or neglectful lawyers could also fail to be prepared for court appearances, neglect to file a timely response to motions or other pleadings, or cause the client to have an adverse default judgment entered.
Every lawyer will have a different skill level from other lawyers, but the standards of the profession require attorneys to operate with a basic level of competence and turn away cases they are not competent to handle. Lawyers who give bad advice or produce technically incorrect documents are likely guilty of malpractice.
What Has To Be Proven In A Legal Malpractice Case?
The basic elements of a legal malpractice claim that must be proven include:
- The existence of a lawyer-client relationship
- Negligence or misconduct by the lawyer
- Financial harm to the client
- A causal connection between the lawyer’s negligence and the client’s harm (i.e., the negligence directly caused the harm)
Often, expert witnesses must be called to explain the applicable standard of conduct and express an opinion on whether the lawyer in question violated that standard. Each party might seek its own expert opinions, setting up a “battle of the experts” and putting the judge or jury in a difficult position. Not only do we work to obtain well-qualified and well-spoken experts, but we thoroughly prepare for trial to ensure we understand the experts and can make the judge or jury understand as well.
Also, in legal malpractice cases, it is often necessary to prove that the outcome of the client’s representation would have been different had the malpractice not occurred. This requirement can cause the underlying matter to basically be litigated and tried as part of the malpractice case. Trying the “case within the case” is an area in which our experienced trial lawyers excel.