There simply is no legal process that is easy. Most are not particularly pleasant, either. Stress, uncertainty and the fear of a system you don’t understand makes it especially critical that an attorney not only has your best interests at heart, but has the capability to accomplish your goals as well.
What is competence?
Simply put, it means that an attorney knows what he is doing. An attorney who specializes in business litigation is probably not conversant with divorce law and litigation. Much as you would not expect a cardiologist to handle brain surgery, an attorney’s competence in your case’s legal area is essential. Without it, a positive outcome may be unattainable.
If you have engaged an attorney and you are unhappy with his current or past representation, consider the following:
- Knowledge: Did your attorney have the education and experience in your case’s practice area? For example, did your attorney represent that he was skilled in trial work, but later proved unfamiliar with procedure? This could be concerning.
- Skill: Building on the above, was your attorney conversant with all rules of court? Did he know how to handle proceedings? Did he understand rules regarding timeliness? Without this, motions could easily be dismissed.
- Preparation: Did your attorney conduct depositions, gather evidence and prepare them in a concise and cohesive manner to you, opposing counsel and the court? Advancing a case past something such as summary judgment – which, without proper preparation, can effectively end your case – requires diligence and commitment.
Just the beginning
This list is not exhaustive; there are many ways an attorney may fail a client – even an attorney with the best of intentions. But ethical considerations are critical to you – and to the practice of law in general. Without a standard of care, clients are at the mercy of a system that they largely do not understand.
In general, attorneys endeavor to represent clients fairly and competently. But mistakes still happen. In those instances, conferring with a skilled legal malpractice attorney allows you to understand your individual case and any available remedies.