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Recognizing Signs of Legal Malpractice: When to Take Action

There are thousands of malpractice cases filed every year, many of which have disastrous consequences for clients. If you’re concerned that your lawyer isn’t meeting their obligations, it’s important to spot the signs of legal malpractice earlier than later. The longer you wait to file a legal malpractice suit, the deeper you’ll be in the weeds.

Misusing Money

Despite the proliferation of software and communication platforms, there are plenty of attorneys who will take your money and never show you where it’s going or what exactly it’s going to be spent on. If you’ve given your attorney a retainer, that money needs to go into a trust — not their personal bank account. If that money is spent, there needs to be details on how exactly it’s being spent. 

Due Diligence Failures and Failure to be Prepared

Attorneys can dress up their work in fancy legal terms all they want, but it comes down to how well they can investigate any given situation with the evidence at hand. During discovery, they have to nail down the facts of the case; facts that will ultimately lead to the best resolution for their clients. If they fail to check into a lead, such as a witness or key piece of documentation, this could be a violation of their professional responsibility. It’s worth noting that there are legitimate reasons why a legal professional might not pursue certain leads, though it is still their duty to keep their clients in the loop as to how they’re conducting the search.

Failure to Inform

Attorneys are required to stay in touch with their clients about the major milestones of the case. They’re also expected to return calls and emails in a reasonable timeframe. Malpractice can get tricky when it’s applied to communication, as there are numerous extenuating circumstances that might interfere. For instance, if an attorney’s loved one passed away during the time of the case, they could reasonably argue that they didn’t have the capacity to return emails and phone calls. Regardless of the reasons behind the lack of communication, a general inability to reach an attorney in the legal team is one of the main reasons for malpractice suits.

Misunderstanding of the Law

The law is inherently complex, and this is true even for attorneys who specialize in certain subject matters. Because provisions in the law can be argued differently by different lawyers, not every case is straightforward. A lawyer isn’t expected to know everything, but they are expected to have a solid understanding of the most relevant sections of the law they’re practicing. If a local, state, or federal law has changed over time, they’re expected to know the forces behind those changes. If they fail to demonstrate this understanding, it could warrant a legal malpractice suit. To some extent, a client is expected to research the attorney they hire, but even if the client hires a general lawyer, that doesn’t absolve the lawyer of major mistakes of not knowing the contacting law.

Disregard of Instructions

It’s the client who’s paying the attorney and, thus, the one making many of the final decisions. While a client can’t ask the attorney to violate ethical or legal laws, they do need to agree to the general steps that the attorney is taking. Again, this can be a tricky legal malpractice sign to spot, as it’s not always easy for attorneys to inform clients of everything — especially if there are unexpected deadlines that pop up along the way. However, if the attorney has failed to make reasonable efforts, such as calling and emailing to obtain consent in an ambiguous situation, then this could lead to allegations of legal malpractice.

Blown Statutes of Limitation

A statute of limitation is the timeframe within which legal action must be brought forth. Suppose an attorney fails to file a case within this stipulated period. In that case, it can result in the dismissal of the case, irrespective of its merits, constituting a ground for legal malpractice. This is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a lawyer and any oversight or negligence in this regard can have severe repercussions for the client. It is crucial for attorneys to be thoroughly aware of all the relevant statutes of limitation pertaining to their client’s case and to act diligently to ensure compliance with these deadlines. Any oversight or neglect in this regard not only harms the client’s prospects but also opens the door for a valid claim of malpractice against the attorney.

Don’t let yourself become the victim of legal malpractice; take action today. If you’ve noticed any of these signs and believe that your attorney is failing in their duty to you, it’s crucial to act swiftly. The Schwartz Law Firm has a team of dedicated and experienced legal professionals ready to assist you. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate through these difficult times. We are committed to ensuring justice is served and your rights are protected.

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz is a Shareholder at Schwartz, P.A. where he serves as the practice group leader for their securities litigation and professional negligence practice group. His practice is focused on plaintiff-side securities arbitration and litigation, representing individual investors and institutions in claims against brokerage firms, investment advisors, commodities firms, hedge funds and others. He also represents plaintiffs who have been damaged by their insurance agents, lawyers, accountants and other professionals. He is an accomplished commercial litigator who has handled a variety of business disputes and other consumer claims.

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