Normally when a person hires an attorney to represent him, the expectation is that the attorney is a skilled professional who will act in the best interest of the client. However, there are times when an attorney can be negligent in handling a client’s case resulting in a negative outcome for the client. In this situation, the client may have a legal malpractice claim against the attorney.
In order to have a viable legal malpractice claim, a client must be able to show that he hired the attorney, the attorney failed to exercise ordinary care and skill which caused the client to suffer injury or damages.
The first requirement, the hiring of the attorney, is not as obvious as it may sound. Sometimes the hiring is completed by an express act such as signing a contract to hire an attorney to represent you. In this situation it is clear that an attorney-client relationship has been formed. However, an attorney-client relationship can also be implied by the conduct of the parties. Many times, a person may seek advice from an attorney, such as by calling the attorney’s office, and perhaps get a consultation. If the client can establish that he had a reasonable belief that an attorney-client relationship was formed, a claim for legal malpractice may be made. Paying an attorney for fees is also not expressly required to establish. There are many times, such as in a contingency fee case, where a client does not pay the attorney any fees.
Once an attorney is hired to represent a client, the attorney is required to use reasonable degree of skill to pursue his client’s objectives. Although an attorney cannot guarantee a specific result for a client, he must take all steps foreseeably necessary to obtain the outcome that the client has communicated to him. There may be times when the attorney and client disagree on a certain strategy to take in a case. If the attorney exercised an honest amount of reasonable professional judgement, a legal malpractice claim may not be successful. In other words, mistake of judgment will not necessarily make an attorney liable for malpractice. However, if the attorney failed to take reasonable steps or mismanage the case, then a claim for malpractice may be made.
A legal malpractice claims cannot be made just because the outcome of the case was negative for the client. Rather, the client must prove that not only should he have obtained a favorable judgment, but also that the judgment also would have entitled the client to damages. In other words, the client must prove that but for the negligence, or malpractice, of his attorney, he would have been awarded damages. A client may also be able to recover for any fees that he paid to the attorney as part of the legal malpractice claim.
If you have suffered from negligent representation by an attorney, click here to contact our office and speak to one of our experienced legal malpractice attorneys to see if you are eligible to file a claim.