Lawyers can commit malpractice in many different ways. However the most common type of legal malpractice claims involve the following:
Failure of the attorney to meet deadlines, such as the statute of limitations or other litigation deadlines. If an attorney fails to file a claim within the statute of limitations, the client’s claim is lost. If an attorney does not comply with discovery deadlines in a lawsuit, the client’s claim may be dismissed or important evidence may be excluded from the case.
Conflicts of interest. An attorney owes a duty of undivided loyalty to the client. For example, I obtained a substantial verdict against an attorney, who favored the interests of a second wife over the children of her husband’s first marriage. While her husband was terminally ill, the attorney convinced her husband to change his estate plan to reduce the assets his children would receive upon his death, so his second wife would inherit those assets. Under the rules of professional conduct, the attorney could not represent both the wife and husband, where the husband’s interests to provide for the children of his first marriage conflicted with the interests of his second wife.
Sometimes attorneys who enter into business transactions with their clients favor themselves over their clients. Sometimes attorneys do not diligently represent the interests of their clients, because they have represented another party involved in a lawsuit or transaction without advising their client. In this situation, the attorneys wrongly believe they can be objective and diligently represent their client’s interests. However, it is their clients’ decision to decide whether the attorneys should represent them. Attorneys have an obligation to discuss all important facts about the representation of their client.
Failure to obtain agreement of the client An attorney cannot decide for a client how to proceed with important decisions in a legal matter. The attorney must obtain the consent of a client to settle a case or negotiate an agreement. An attorney must follow their clients’ instructions or decisions unless the clients’ instructions are legally impermissible.
Failure to adequately investigate or prepare. I have handled cases, where clients have lost their case, because their attorneys did not adequately investigate the matter, or undertake the necessary steps to secure important evidence or testimony. I have handled other cases where the attorney was not prepared for trial. In this situation, the attorney often tries to force the client to accept an inadequate settlement. Sometimes the attorney advises the client to settle cheaply because the attorney is not prepared to go to trial or has made a mistake that hurts the case.
Failure to know the law. Sometimes attorneys handle matters for which they do not have the necessary expertise. For example, I obtained settlements for clients who were advised by attorneys that their debts could be discharged in bankruptcy, when bankruptcy law did not allow the debts to be erased.
If you believe that an attorney is not properly representing, you should immediately request a meeting with the attorney and review your file. You are entitled to look at your file under New Jersey law. If an attorney refuses to provide you a copy of your file should write a letter to the attorney advising him or her law that the ethics rules require disclosure of the file.
Fee dispute with an attorney. There are a number of options available to clients who have a fee dispute with an attorney. I can discuss all the options with you including fee arbitration, which often is not the best option for you.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of legal malpractice in Pennington, contact an attorney at the Law Offices of Thaddeus P. Mikulski Jr today. Our compassionate, experienced Princeton legal malpractice lawyers will analyze every facet of your case and then proceed in your best interests. To learn more about our firm’s services, call us at 609-303-0222 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We represent clients in Burlington County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Somerset County as well as clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.