Legal malpractice is a legal term for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, or negligence by a lawyer who causes harm to clients. It also involves negligence of the lawyer to provide legal representation or advice. A case is considered to be a legal malpractice if the situation rises to a level of negligence that requires action. In this situation, the individual must show that the acts of the lawyer are not merely outputs from poor strategies but instead results of errors that no rational lawyer could make.
In addition, legal practice requires showing a damage that could have not happened if the lawyer has not been negligent. However, if the damage would have occurred despite different procedures done by the lawyer, this shows non-negligent, thus no cause of action will be allowed. Legal malpractice may happen if a lawyer breaches a fiduciary duty to the client. This normally happens if the lawyer acts accordingly to his or her own interests instead of the client’s.
The common basis for a claim of legal malpractice arises when a lawyer misses a deadline in filing papers to the court such as statute of limitations. As this error happens, it would be a loss to the cause of action of the client. Legal malpractice may involve different elements in order for a petitioner to prevail case. Among these elements include the following:
- Existence of relationship between the lawyer and the client
- Negligence in the legal representation of a petitioner
- The extend and facts of the alleged injury
The element of the existence of relationship between the lawyer and the client should be proven and established. Once a lawyer-client relationship is absent, it simply means that the lawyer has no obligation to perform to the client, thus no basis of malpractice action is needed.
A petitioner must establish negligence done by the lawyer. The negligence must show that the lawyer violated the standard of care or failed to make legal representation to the clients. This element is relatively easy to prove because it does not need any expert testimony. Apparently, legal representation is often complicated, thus it is often necessary to use an authorized witness in regulating the standard of care.
The third element above is indeed necessary in proving legal malpractice. The petitioner must show a proximate result suffered from the negligence of the lawyer. If this element is proven, the misconduct of the lawyer is also at stake. The amount and nature of damages that the petitioner had experienced should also be proven. In any event that the petitioner cannot show any result of damages, the filed legal malpractice case will be dismissed by the court.
Under the “Attorney Judgment Rule”, a lawyer is not liable for whatever errors of judgment he or she had made because the judgments as well as the decisions were made in honest ways and in good faith for the best interests of the clients. This rule protects all lawyers who have acted in good faith and had informed the clients involved in the case. The rule also states that the hindsight of the lawyer can be tactical or strategic errors instead.