The term "fiduciary duty" refers to a legal relationship between two parties that involves some level of confidence or trust. This relationship merits some level of reliance and good faith between the parties. For instance, the relationship an attorney has with a client is a form of fiduciary duty. When a lawyer fails to maintain the standard of trust between him/herself and the client - usually through some form of actionable negligence - the attorney may be guilty of legal malpractice. Typically, attorneys who commit legal malpractice do so because they are concerned about their own interests over the interest of their client.
Types of Legal Malpractice claims may include but are not limited to:
- · General negligence- failure to meet accepted standards of conduct within the legal profession
- · Conflicts of interest- taking action that promotes the interests of another person, including the attorney, at the expense of a client and in conflict with the client’s interests.
- · Failure to file- Failure to file documents or pleadings in a timely manner, including failure to file the summons and complaint within the period of the statute of limitations.
- · Ethical violations- behaving in ways that contradict the Code of Professional Responsibility which require an attorney to act in the client’s best interests.
- · Billing and fee abuses- over-billing, charging for services not rendered, charging for unauthorized services
Proving Legal Malpractice
Generally, legal malpractice occurs when an attorney, acting in their professional capacity as a lawyer is negligent. In this context, negligence is the failure of an attorney to exercise “reasonable care,” which means use a degree of skill that an ordinary member of the legal profession would use. To successfully recover on a claim for legal negligence, you must demonstrate that your attorney committed errors while handling your case and that those errors caused financial loss.
There are aspects of attorney malpractice claims that are distinct from other types of professional liability. Legal malpractice occurs only when an attorney makes a mistake that causes measurable damage to a person, which is usually but not always the attorney’s client. Not all mistakes by lawyers cause damage. Also, as long as the attorney’s judgment was based on an evaluation of the facts and law available to them, lawyers generally are not liable for errors in their professional judgment. For example, matters of legal strategy will not subject an attorney to legal malpractice liability as long as the lawyer's decision is a reasonable one. Otherwise, the decision could be considered legal malpractice.
Contact an Attorney
When a lawyer violates his/her client's trust in any way, they may be guilty of legal malpractice. If you have been victimized by an attorney and believe that you deserve money for the damage it has caused you, seeking help from an attorney experienced in legal malpractice matters is your best option to ensure your legal rights are protected.