Lawyers and doctors have a lot in common. They have to go through a lot of extra schooling even after college. They have to pass extensive testing after their postgraduate schooling. They also have to maintain state licensing, and they are at risk of malpractice claims when they fail to meet certain professional standards.
Since you don’t know the law, it isn’t always easy to tell when a lawyer crosses that fine line between a legitimate mistake or oversight and a breach of professional standards. Although legal malpractice can take many forms, the following three red flags are warning signs that your attorney isn’t or wasn’t the best legal representation for your situation.
- You see signs of a conflict of interest
If your lawyer helps you manage your rental property business and they suggest a real estate agent to you, you would assume that they suggested someone because of their professional competence. However, if you find out it is their romantic partner or sibling, it could be an example of an attorney using their position for personal gain or for the benefit of people in their inner circle.
A lawyer has a fiduciary duty to their clients, which means your attorney should put your needs above any other interests when handling your issues. If they try to help themselves or their inner circle through their representation of you, that is a conflict of interest and possibly a violation of their fiduciary duty to you.
- They make it clear this is not an area of law they understand
If your attorney tells you they have never handled a contract law case or a divorce before, that’s a good sign that they shouldn’t start with yours. Unless they are fresh out of school and developing a new practice, you expect an attorney that you work with to be familiar with your area of legal needs.
A lawyer stepping outside of their area of expertise may not know everything they should do to give you the best possible help.
- Disorganization and lack of professionalism can affect your case
A lawyer who wears blue jeans to meetings with clients is relatable, but a lawyer who wears blue jeans to court may look like a slob to the judge. You expect your attorney to be a professional and to take responsibility for all of their obligations to you. If they miss meetings, fail to show up to court, fail to file paperwork or show up disheveled or worse, drunk, their lack of professionalism could drastically affect the outcome of your case.
When an attorney breaches their fiduciary duty to you, is negligent or incompetent in their representation of you, or fails to meet certain basic professional standards, you may have grounds to bring a legal malpractice claim against them for the losses you suffered due to their misconduct or bad advice.