What Constitutes Legal Malpractice?
A lawyer that has intentionally harmed a client due to negligence on his or her part or fails to abide by accepted professional conduct that guides the standards of behavior of the legal profession can be found guilty of legal malpractice. There are numerous rules that guide the conduct of a lawyer; these rules embrace areas such as diligence, competence and a breach of fiduciary duty. As a claim for legal malpractice must be made with a defined period of time, an aggrieved client will need to hire malpractice lawyers to handle these very complex cases.
If a lawyer fails to perform up to what are seen to be acceptable standards under which lawyers operate he or she may be found guilty of breaching the ineffective assistance rules that apply. A good example of this might be a case where a lawyer fails to perform adequate research of the applicable laws and apply the results of this research to the client’s case. A lawyer is obliged to use all their skill and knowledge to properly develop a strategy and to employ it on behalf of the client.
It is expected that any dealings between a lawyer and the client are confidential, if the lawyer should breach this rule of confidentiality he or she may be in breach. All lawyers are expected to be loyal to their clients and their cause, they must not repeat anything that they hear or see during consultation with their client unless they are given permission to do so by the client. Malpractice lawyers see this breach frequently.
As well as adhering to rules of confidentiality which allow the client the freedom to speak openly and without fear, the lawyer is also obliged to follow the wishes of the client in most areas. This applies to such demands that the client wishes to take the witness stand and testify on their own behalf, even if the lawyer is against it. The same rule applies to the clients wish to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest, if the lawyer goes against the wishes of the client he can face a charge of legal malpractice.
Other areas that can result in a charge of legal malpractice are how a client’s money is dealt with and conflict of interest. All client money must be kept separate from the lawyer’s personal funds and in no case must the same lawyer represent co-defendants in a case as there is always the chance of one defendant testifying against the other. A lawyer must always put the interests of his or her client first.