Boston Legal Malpractice Lawyer | Newton, Wellesley, Waltham
Lawyers are not accountable for malpractice simply by losing a case, even if their clients strongly believe that they should have won. Instead, lawyers only commit legal malpractice when they fail to provide legal representation in accordance with the standards for what is expected by competent lawyers practicing in that field.
This blog discusses the legal malpractice standard.
Lawyers Have a Duty to Understand and Provide the Representation Delivered by Competent Lawyers Providing the Same Types of Services
If a lawyer agrees to undertake representation for a client for a particular matter, the services of that lawyer will be judged against others lawyers practicing in that same area to determine whether professional malpractice has been committed.
Lawyers providing corporate services are judged against competent corporate lawyers. Lawyers providing estate planning services are judged against competent estate planning lawyers.
As a result, if a lawyer who has never represented a criminal defendant agrees to represent a defendant in a criminal case, that lawyer will be held to the same standard of competence in rendering services as criminal defense lawyers who regularly defend clients. The lawyer must then educate himself or herself in order to be able to provide such services competently if they are otherwise not familiar with criminal practice.
The Standard Involved is the Competent Practitioner Standard
Like other professionals, lawyers will vary greatly in terms of ability. Some lawyers, often those who have been practicing for decades, will be experts in the field, and thus may be able to produce better results than those who do not have a similar level of expertise.
The legal malpractice standard does not require all lawyers to be experts. Rather, for any matter for which representation is undertaken, the lawyer must meet the standards of practice demonstrated by those practicing in such area or for such matter.
Judgment calls at trial can encompass many aspects – such as whether to call a particular witness or whether to follow a certain strategy. The role of a lawyer is to discuss these types of matters with his or her client, advise the client as to what strategy the lawyer thinks is best, and follow the client’s decisions. In other matters, such as writing a legal brief, the lawyer will necessarily make decisions as to what course will be best based upon his or her judgment.
Judgment calls usually will not constitute malpractice, even if in hindsight the decisions do not work well, so long as the decision was prudently made.
Common Situations Involving Malpractice
There are far too many circumstances that can constitute professional legal malpractice than can be listed here. A few common areas where malpractice can occur include:
- Missing required deadlines. In civil and criminal matters, there are important deadlines that must be met (although these deadlines are often changed upon agreement of the parties or by the court). When a deadline is missed and a client suffers harm as a result, this can often constitute legal malpractice.
- Failing to keep clients informed of their matter, and seeking the client’s input when key decisions must be made. Attorneys need to always keep their clients informed as their case progresses. They may also not make key decisions without their client’s consent, such as agreeing to settle a case.
- Failing to reasonably prosecute a client’s case. Whether defending a client in a criminal matter or initiating a personal injury civil case against a defendant, attorneys should take all reasonable steps to win the case for their clients.
Determining Whether Professional Malpractice Has Occurred
If you’re interested in finding out whether legal malpractice has occurred in your case, please call me. Once I learn about the facts and circumstances of your case I can advise you as to whether I believe that legal malpractice may have occurred, as well as your options if this is the case.