When you hire an attorney, you expect them to fight for you to the best of their ability. While that may be an attorney’s intention, mistakes can be, and are made. Most mistakes are not considered legal malpractice, but some serious offenses that fall into that category are listed below.
If you can come to an understanding of the following traps, you’ll avoid the stress of having to file or withstand a legal malpractice claim.
Five common traps
- Dabbling: This trap includes providing area outside of your expertise. If you’re a criminal defense attorney, don’t provide insight to someone asking about tax law. If the focus of your practice is employment law, don’t spout advice about how to win a personal injury claim. You may have multiple areas of expertise and practice them all. In that case, go ahead, but if you aren’t certain regarding an area of law, it would be best to refer to others, or at least seek the help of an attorney who is an expert in said area of law.
- E-discovery: Another circumstance that if you aren’t an expert on, can get you sued. Cases can become complex, and it’s not enough just to hire an expert on the subject or trust a paralegal. You need to be an expert yourself to advise your client on how to preserve their electronic information.
- Insurance coverage: Though it’s their duty to advise their clients, many attorneys don’t pay enough respect to the insurance policies of their client, or to conduct a coverage analysis. When an attorney ignores coverage issues and the client ends up paying out tons of money in defense costs, settlements or to pay a judgement, the attorney in question could face hefty malpractice suit.
- Overconfidence: If you are a trial lawyer. Confidence, or perceived confidence while in the courtroom, is key; as is humility. An overconfident lawyer may sway their client to reject a fair settlement offer or fail to do adequate research. Claimants can file a malpractice suit for this issue.
- Poor communication and covering up mistakes: Don’t do them. They lead to angry clients ready to file a lawsuit. Speak with your client yourself, and as often as you can throughout the process. The client does not want to hear from a paralegal or junior associate. Also, covering up mistakes will only lead to a very disgruntled client when it comes to light, and often, it will.