What Qualifies as Legal Malpractice?

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When hiring an attorney to represent you in your case, you expect them to act within a standard of care. But what happens if they fail to live up to that standard? It could lead to an attorney malpractice suit, but it’s important to know what constitutes legal malpractice.

Just because your case doesn’t go your way doesn’t mean malpractice occurred. There are several key things you’ll need to prove if you think your attorney committed attorney malpractice.


Definition of Legal Malpractice

According to FindLaw, “legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer doesn’t do what they are supposed to do, and their error hurts their client.”

Most jurisdictions have adopted the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which outline an attorney’s responsibilities to their clients, law firms, communities, and profession. These rules cover everything from an attorney’s duty to their former clients to unauthorized practice of law, and many topics in between.

The ABA’s rules can be a helpful place to start if you’re wondering if an attorney’s actions constitute malpractice. Ultimately, if you want a comprehensive evaluation of attorney malpractice, you’ll need to speak with another lawyer to determine if you have a valid claim.


Necessary Elements to Prove Negligence and Professional Malpractice

If you want to prove that your attorney committed legal malpractice, start by having a conversation with a different attorney. Legal malpractice is a specialized area of law, and not every attorney is well-versed in the subject. Find an attorney who has experience with these types of cases.

The main proof points of a legal malpractice case include:

  • The existence of an attorney-client relationship
  • Evidence of the attorney’s negligence in the legal representation and that the negligence caused an injury (which could be considered a financial loss)
  • Proof of the nature and extent of the injury


What Kind of Legal Action is a Malpractice Lawsuit?

Attorney malpractice cases are usually civil matters. However, if there is evidence of fraud or theft, the attorney could be subject to criminal prosecution and/or receive disciplinary action from the State Bar. State Bar disciplinary actions can include sanctions, fines, or even disbarment.


Most Common Types of Legal Malpractice Cases

Insurance Journal found that the top areas for legal malpractice claims include:

  • Business transactions
  • Corporate and securities
  • Real estate
  • Trusts and estates

Many of these claims are related to negligence or errors in documents, contracts, and filing requirements.


Legal Malpractice Claim Settlements

According to a study from insurance broker Ames & Gough, legal malpractice payouts were at an all-time high between 2019 and 2020, and the industry expects payouts to continue at that level. Even though claims remained relatively flat, payouts skyrocketed.

During 2019-2020, nine of the 11 surveyed insurers who provide legal malpractice insurance reported being involved in a claim payout exceeding $50 million. Two of the insurers paid a claim between $150 million and $300 million, and four paid a claim topping $300 million.

While these numbers are staggering, payouts of this size are not typically the norm. Payouts range widely based on the specific facts of the case.


Contact a Legal Malpractice Attorney

If you have questions about a potential attorney malpractice claim, get in touch with our team. We have extensive experience litigating these types of cases, and we are widely recognized as strong advocates for our clients in this field.

Our office handles many types of malpractice cases, including:

  • Wrongful misrepresentation
  • Legal malpractice
  • Attorney fee disputes

Don’t hesitate to contact McGonigle Law for any questions on attorney malpractice.


The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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