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Are lawyers accountable for the actions of nonlawyers?

by | Aug 7, 2020 | Legal Malpractice |

You may have encountered attorneys who act like they know it all. However, most lawyers recognize their limitations. Depending on the nature of your case, your attorney may choose to employ nonlawyers, such as accountants, medical professionals, and social workers in order to provide you with more comprehensive representation.

Nonlawyers can make or break your case. If the actions of a nonlawyer break your case and damage the outcome of your legal matter, does your attorney have any accountability?

Holding nonlawyers to the ethical standards of legal practice

Rule 5.3 of the American Bar Association’s Mode Rules of Professional conduct states that, “A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.” In other words, the lawyer should hold the nonlawyer to the ethical standards required of the legal profession. The rule goes on to say that a lawyer may be held accountable for the conduct of the nonlawyer.

A lawyer may be responsible for the nonlawyer’s actions if the nonlawyer’s unethical conduct affected the outcome of your case and your lawyer ordered or consented to the unethical conduct. Your lawyer may also be accountable if they were aware of the nonlawyer’s unethical behavior yet took no action to stop it.

As always in malpractice cases, shoddy representation by your lawyer or a swing and a miss by a nonlawyer may not be enough to prevail on your claim. Legal malpractice cases are often complicated. A professional who is skilled in these matters can help explore your options and provide you with a better idea of how to move forward.