You have legal problems. That’s why you hired an attorney in the first place – you needed advisement from an expert who knows their way around the law. But what happens when your lawyer is stacking on the difficulties instead of helping you through them?
Your attorney’s job as a professional in the legal field is to calm the waters, clarify legal jargon and make things easier for you, not the other way around. So if you have been misrepresented, lied to, or if your case is being handled by an incompetent lawyer, you probably have a case against him or her – although winning the case might not be a walk in the park.
First thing’s first: Is poor performance a valid enough reason to sue? How do you know when your attorney has committed malpractice?
There is a lot of grey area in this answer, but we have some guidelines that you can follow in order to make your determination a little bit easier. A client can sue his or her attorney for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and for breach of contract. The following are some common grounds for which you may sue your attorney.
- Your lawyer has abandoned your case
- Your case was tossed out of court due to a lack of research and effort on the part of your attorney
- Your attorney has settled your case without your permission
- Your attorney has misused your retainer money
- Your lawyer is representing another client to your disadvantage
- Your lawyer has made glaringly obvious errors that a professional in his or her field should have never made
- Your attorney has failed to contact you – your phone calls and emails have been left unattended for a long period of time
If your situation falls into any of these guidelines you may have a case. Next, we have outlined seven steps that you can take to start the process of filing a lawsuit.
7 Steps to Filing a Lawsuit
Here’s how to file a lawsuit against your attorney:
Fire your attorney
Get onboard with another lawyer.
Decide whether it’s worth the headache.
Get your wallet out.
Save every document.
But be sure to understand the parameters of the contract the two have you have signed before you do so.
Sigh. Yes, we know – your experience with attorneys hasn’t been everything you had hoped it would be. But, alas, if you want to sue someone, anyone, you will need to hire another attorney. If you are unsure of whether or not you have a case, a legal malpractice attorney can swiftly help you make that determination.
While Oregon is the only state that requires lawyers to obtain legal malpractice insurance, or a professional liability fund, many attorneys nationwide carry such insurance in order to have protection in instances just like this. While no one deserves to be lied to or cheated out of money, you should take a deeper look at what you may be getting yourself into before you decide to pursue a case, and find out if you even have the potential to gain more money than you will end up spending.
As incompetent as your lawyer may have been in regards to your case, chances are he or she will put a lot more effort into defending him or herself. Suing another attorney can be especially pricey because they already know many tricks of the trade and how to use them to their advantage. If the lawyer decides to hire a defense attorney you’ll have even more stacked against you.
You’ll need an immaculate paper trail in order to prove your attorney’s malpractice. Maintain a complete record of communication, your contract, meetings, bank records that prove the financial condition the case has left you in, and even phone calls that you have made – especially all efforts you have made that have been left neglected.
Establish proof that your lawyer has misappropriated your funds, overcharged you or settled your case without your permission for a far lesser amount than you agreed upon.
You need to expose the lies that your attorney may have told you. If your lawyer promised you that he or she would handle your case personally, but you constantly find yourself communicating with the paralegal, junior, assistant or office receptionist instead the lawyer, and are unable to establish communication with your attorney, be sure to preserve proof.