It may come as a surprise to some, but lawyers are human too. Therefore, they make mistakes. When a lawyer makes a negligent mistake while representing a client, and the client is harmed as a result, the lawyer is guilty of legal malpractice. As with other cases of professional liability, legal malpractice cases can be complicated and difficult to evaluate or prove. Nevertheless, Wallace Wason is ready, willing and able to help those injured clients.
Many lawyers are reluctant to take legal malpractice cases. Their reluctance may stem from a desire to avoid creating ill-will with another attorney in the legal community. It may be economic concerns. It may also be a case of putting themselves in the other lawyer’s shoes.
Wallace Wason believes in accountability for all professionals. Therefore, Wallace Wason is prepared to take selected cases against other lawyers. There is a careful screening process, but if the case meets appropriate criteria, it will be accepted and vigorously pursued.
In Virginia, an action from negligence of an attorney in performance of professional services sounds in tort, but must be pled as a breach of contract. Without a contract, an attorney has no duty to the client. When there is a contract between attorney and client, the lawyer owes the client a duty to perform all professional services with the same degree of skill and diligence that would be used by reasonably prudent practitioners under the same circumstances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Many legal malpractice cases involve a written contract between the attorney and client, but that is not necessary. The contract may be implied. All the client needs to show is that he sought and received the advice and assistance of the attorney in matters pertinent to his profession. There does not need to be any payment of fees to establish these elements of a legal malpractice case.
The relationship between a lawyer and his client is a fiduciary relationship. The client places trust in the lawyer because the lawyer is the expert and the client depends on his knowledge, skill and honor. Breaches of this fiduciary relationship can give rise to an action for malpractice.
All lawyers must abide by certain ethical standards. These rules can be relevant to legal malpractice cases. Some of the more common rules that are discussed in legal malpractice cases can be found in Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct:
1.3 Diligence (a) A. A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
(a) A. A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Some specific examples of legal malpractice may include:
• Missing a statute of limitation and having a case dismissed;
• Failing to identify and name proper parties as defendants;
• Improperly drafted documents;
• Failing to withdraw because of conflicts of interest;
• Having a case dismissed because of failure to name expert witnesses or meet other deadlines through the rules of court;
• Drafting ambiguous documents or documents that do not carry out the client’s intent.
Any of these situations can lead to a cause of action for legal malpractice.