Many people know that doctors can be held legally accountable if they give bad advice to patients that causes the patients injury. But, did you know that lawyers can also be held accountable if they give bad legal advice to their clients? If a lawyer's negligence causes serious financial or physical harm to a party in a civil case, that party may be able to recover from the negligent lawyer for legal malpractice.
Imagine if you thought you were limiting a fee to a maximum of $2 million but were later told the fee would be $10 million. It would be quite a shock, especially if you were relying on advice from a prestigious law firm.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, has issued an important ruling on attorney fee awards. When the requested fees are "grossly" or "outrageously" excessive, judges are not required to determine a fair amount. Instead, they have the discretion to simply disallow any fee award.
What activities are high-risk for legal malpractice? Are there certain practice areas where malpractice claims are more common? An insurance broker called Ames & Gough recently performed an annual survey of professional liability insurers to find out.
Today's post is not technically about legal malpractice but it could still be instructive for lawyers and their clients. A Connecticut woman sued an attorney for $85,000 after she was hit by pasta an attorney had flung during an argument with another man. The pasta, covered in a spicy sauce, struck the woman in the face and eyes, causing her to trip, fall and seriously injure herself.
Can an attorney be disbarred for handling outside cases when employed by a law firm? It depends on what their employment contract with the law firm says, according to the Washington Supreme Court and that state bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel. And, if that employment contract prohibits the lawyer from handling outside cases, accepting fees for those cases constitutes theft.
Broadly, legal malpractice occurs when your lawyer failed to perform in accordance with accepted legal standards and that failure caused you a financial loss. It's not legal malpractice simply to lose a case or even to make a major mistake. Not every bad outcome is the result of malpractice.
When you are practicing law here in Pennsylvania, it is critical that you correctly and ethically manage your own financial accounts as well as those of your clients. This includes how you handle paying bills for your firm as well as those that are entrusted to you. In addition to the management of those accounts, clear transparent records are essential in case your actions are called into question.
An attorney has an ethical obligation to his or her client to represent his or her interests, and zealously defend their legal rights. Part of the many obligations that comes with practicing law are limits on potential conflicts of interests. Your attorney should be focused on you only, not taking your case or working on it in a way that helps others or in a way that improperly enriches him or herself.
There's a process that covers the possible discipline of attorneys in Pennsylvania because they broke ethical rules of professional conduct. Given that attorneys are the ones possibly being disciplined it should come as no surprise the process is not simple. There are also opportunities for the attorney to appeal disciplinary decisions. This process is to possibly subject the attorney to professional discipline up to disbarment. It's not a legal malpractice lawsuit or trial.