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Adams & Clark, PC
Attorneys at Law

Suite 200
520 East Portland Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85004

(602) 258-3542
(602) 258-1377 FAX

 

Types of Legal Malpractice

 

Lawyer Negligence

There are many different types of legal malpractice, but the most common form is negligence. A lawyer's carelessness can cause a case to settle for much less than it could have or to be lost at or before trial.

An attorney may be liable for loss or injury sustained by a client due to the attorney's negligence in initiating and conducting litigation; permitting a statutory time limitation to run against a client's claim; failing to take the proper steps or taking the wrong steps to protect a client's right of appeal or review; or, failing to present the proper evidence in a criminal defense matter. Actions for malpractice can also be bought against an attorney for negligence in settling or failing to settle a client's case, in examining the title to a property, in preparing and recording legal instruments and security documents, and in handling debt collections.

Conflict of Interest

A lawyer must make his or her client the highest priority and have their client's best interests in mind. However, sometimes this is not always so. If a conflict of interest is involved, this may result in the client’s case being jeopardized and a legitimate legal malpractice lawsuit may exist.

Breach of Confidentiality

When someone hires a lawyer, a confidential relationship is formed. This also applies to a lot of different areas, such as a doctor and patient, or a priest listening to someone's confession. The lawyer is expected to keep the details of a client's case confidential and if this trust is broken, the client may have a legitimate legal malpractice lawsuit.

Attorney Fee Disputes

Lawyers have contractual obligations to their clients regarding fees. The lawyer is also bound by ethical rules regarding fees. A lawyer may only charge a reasonable fee. If the lawyer charges more than a reasonable fee, a legal malpractice case may exist.

You should require your attorney to provide you with a written fee agreement prior to hiring the attorney. If the charges are inconsistent with your agreement, ask your lawyer to explain, and if appropriate, correct the errors. If you are not satisfied, contact the State Bar of Arizona. It offers free arbitration services for settling attorney/client disputes. If your fee dispute is still unresolved, you may want to pursue a legal malpractice action against the attorney based upon breach of contract, fraud, or other theories of liability.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A lawyer must act with the best interests of the client in mind. If the lawyer fails to act in the best interest of the client a legal malpractice case may exist.

Breach of Duty of Competency

Attorneys are generally not liable if the legal advice they gave was sound at the time it was given. However, prudent attorneys should keep abreast of proposed legislation and advise their clients about impending developments in the law.

Lawyers may also be liable if their conduct falls below the standard of competency in the area of law.

Breach of Duties to Third Parties

In general, an attorney can be liable for professional negligence only to clients or the intended beneficiaries of the attorney's legal work (such as the intended beneficiaries of a will drafted by the attorney). However, an attorney can be liable to a third party for fraud, misrepresentation, or other reckless or intentionally wrongful conduct that harms the third party. An attorney can also be liable to a third party where the attorney's legal services aided the illegal motives or activities of a client.