How to Sue Your Lawyer for Legal Malpractice

a woman in a suit sitting with a gavel in the foreground and scales of justice in the background

When you hire a lawyer to help you with legal services, you are placing your trust in that lawyer that they will have your best interests in mind at all times. However, that trust can be violated by the lawyer, intentionally or negligently.  The question then becomes, can you sue your lawyer for his or her mistake?  If so, what needs to be evident for you to do it?

Fortunately, Henderson Law can provide you with the answers to this sort of question, among others.  Generally, though, your lawyer owes you duty of care, and if he or she breaches that duty of care, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice claim.  Here is a quick guide to what that process typically looks like. 

What Circumstances Can Lead to a Legal Malpractice Claim?

There are typically three (3) circumstances when a client may have grounds to sue his or her lawyer for legal malpractice. For one, if they have not acted in accordance with the applicable standard of care, then you may have a negligent case against them. You may also sue your former lawyer if they have breached their contract with you in some way.  Lastly, attorneys have a fiduciary responsibility toward you, and if they breach that responsibility then you may be able to sue them for that breach.   

Negligence Lawsuit Against Your Attorney

Negligence applies when an attorney does not handle your case competently. When you hire a lawyer, you can reasonably expect that they are qualified and knowledgeable enough to do the work. However, if during the process of managing your case they make errors or demonstrate that they do not have the skills to properly advocate for you, then you may be able to sue them. Errors can cause irreparable harm to your case, and possibly to you personally in turn. Here are some examples when attorney negligence might be a factor that leads to legal malpractice. 

  • The opponent in your case presents evidence in your trial that is technically not permitted under applicable law. Your attorney does not challenge it because they are not properly knowledgeable about the applicable laws and rules for evidence. Your case is damaged and you lose because of it. 
  • A lawyer takes on a type of case, such as a personal injury case, without the proper experience or knowledge to handle such cases and you are unsuccessful in your claim because of this. 
  • Your lawyer is not thorough enough when it comes to discovery in a divorce case. Your ex-spouse has managed to hide some assets that go undiscovered during the execution of your divorce. You do not get adequate compensation because of this error. 
  • Your attorney files a legal claim after the statute of limitations has expired. Your case is quickly dismissed because of this oversight. 

While these are common examples, there are many more possibilities. Lawyers are used for many reasons, and many types of cases can be damaged by attorney negligence. Your attorney must at the very least be an adequate advocate for your cause.  As long as your attorney acts in the same fashion that an attorney handling the same sort of case under the same circumstances would act, then you may not be able to successfully assert a claim against your former lawyer.  However, if they do not reach those standards, then there may be a good chance you have a case. 

Breach of Contract Lawsuit Against Your Attorney

A breach of contract claim is another claim that you may have against your former lawyer.  Typically, as a client, you will sign a contract with an attorney for their services. You may have heard of this referred to as a retainer agreement or engagement agreement.  If your lawyer does not follow through on their side of that contract, then you may be able to make a claim against them.  Here are some common breaches of contract cases: 

  • Your attorney does not prepare and submit legal documents before deadlines.
  • Your attorney does not actually do any work on your behalf, despite accepting your payment and agreeing to the contract.
  • Your attorney charges you a higher rate than what you agreed to.

To be successful with a breach of contract lawsuit, you must be very clear on what your agreement says and how it was violated.  An experienced legal malpractice attorney from Henderson Law will be able to assist you with this and determine whether you have a case. 

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Lawsuit Against Your Attorney

When you hire an attorney, the attorney must act in your best interests. If they do not, then may be considered a breach of their fiduciary duty. Your attorney can devise a strategy and negotiate on your behalf, but in the end you are the one who must make the final decisions regarding your case. A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when your attorney either makes a decision for you without your informed consent or pushes you to make a decision that is not in your best interest. For example: 

  • You ask for assets in your will to be left to your children.  Instead, the lawyer prepares a will wherein he or she is identified as your beneficiary.  
  • Your attorney impermissibly discloses confidential information that you have shared with him or her to your detriment.    

As a client, you are the one who is best equipped to decide what is in your best interests. If the lawyer breaches that duty, then you may be able to file a claim against them for breach of fiduciary duty. 

Suing For Legal Malpractice

If you are not a lawyer, then it may be hard to decipher whether your legal representation has acted unethically or incompetently.  If you feel that they have but are unsure if you have a case, then contact Henderson Law for a consultation. Our legal malpractice attorneys will examine your case and give you all of your options. Call today at (410) 721-1979 to schedule a consultation.