Laws at both the federal and state level in Florida are always being changed, broadened or narrowed. New ones are passed, and sometimes, others are struck down. One of the most stringent requirements of any attorney is staying current with all the changes and understanding how they apply to the day-to-day practice of law. It is imperative that attorneys make every effort to remain up-to-date as changes could impact decisions they make concerning case or trial strategy, as well as the outcome of future cases. An attorney who does not understand these things may make mistakes, which could leave him or her open to charges of legal malpractice.
According to the American Bar Association, failure to understand and apply the law correctly is the No. 1 reason for client malpractice claims, accounting for 11.3 percent of all U.S. complaints. This includes cases in which the attorney does not know all the legal principles that apply to a situation, or did not attempt to discover them. This lack of knowledge directly affects the lawyer’s reasoning.
In addition, failure to apply laws correctly includes cases in which the attorney does not realize the legal consequences of known facts. For example, an estate attorney who understands that a client wishes to leave children out of a will should realize that those children must be mentioned in the will. The lawyer should advise his client of this, as well as suggesting how best to do so.
The need to know everything legal that may apply to a case is imperative for all attorneys and supports the decision of many who choose to specialize in specific fields. To help them stay abreast of new legislation, attorneys can employ a variety of services, including their state and federal bar associations, government agencies, law libraries, law clerks and third-party services as well.
This article has important information about general legal malpractice. It is not intended as legal advice.