Overview of legal malpractice

When people in New York think of malpractice, they likely assume it to mean medical malpractice. However, just as the word malpractice can be used to describe a medical professional who fails to perform up to expected standards, so can the word describe a lawyer who violates the expectations of professional conduct for a legal professional. Determining legal malpractice is not always easy.

Every day, clients win and lose cases, and those who lose are not necessarily victims of legal malpractice. Malpractice involves the violation of rules of ethics or the breach of some legal duty. For example, an attorney who acts as a fiduciary for a client can commit malpractice by commingling his or her own funds with those of the client. Attorneys may allow their other interests or duties to compete or interfere with their duty to their clients.

When these or other acts prevent a client from winning a case, there may be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. In addition, a client wishing to claim legal malpractice must show that the lawyer's careless, unethical or incompetent behavior caused the client harm. If this harm led to financial loss, there is likely grounds for a legal claim against the attorney.

It may seem like a difficult decision for a client to turn to another lawyer after one lawyer has already betrayed one's trust. However, there are attorneys in New York who are not afraid to hold their colleagues to the high standards the law demands. The representation of such an attorney will certainly benefit anyone who has been the victim of legal malpractice.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Legal Malpractice?", Jan. 6, 2018

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