How is attorney competence defined?

There are many people that may pride themselves on handling issues on their own as opposed to hiring others to do things for them. There are indeed certain benefits to following the DIY way of thinking: you can yourself money and gain helpful knowledge. Yet there are also special circumstances where you are likely better served by turning to a professional for help. 

One of these is in dealing with legal action. While you may know a lot about the situation you are in, you are likely unfamiliar with the laws governing it. A competent attorney should bring that knowledge (and more) to a case. The question then becomes what does it take to be a competent attorney? 

It may seem condescending for you to question an attorney's competence when you yourself are not a lawyer, yet it is not unreasonable for you to have certain expectations when you seek legal representation. When defining competence, the American Bar Association states that "Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation." Notice how legal knowledge is just one element of this definition. While your attorney should definitely know the laws in the area they practice in, they should also support that knowledge (and your case) with a strong work ethic. 

Your case can involve everything from timely filing deadlines to in-depth depositions. Your attorney should understand the schedules and constraints that the circumstances of the case place on them. Their legal knowledge may be all for naught if they fail to follow the court's schedule or fail to adequately prepare your representation. You should focus on each of these elements when evaluating their performance. If the basic expectation of competence is not met, you may have the grounds to file a malpractice claim

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