The Impact of Legal Malpractice on Clients

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By Brittany Cotton

As an attorney, you spend your career helping others fight for and protect their rights under the law. However, the very nature of your job also puts you at risk of a lawsuit the instant a client perceives that you failed to represent them fairly, which cost them. Hence, below are some helpful tips to keep in mind to help protect yourself and your clients from malpractice on your behalf.


Impact of legal malpractice on clients


You are required by law to maintain a legal and ethical relationship with your clients to ensure trustworthiness. However, when you fail to do so, it not only breaches their trust and negatively impacts their opinion of you, but it can also hurt their case, which can result in them losing it or receiving a settlement for less than what was fairly due to them.


Likewise, should your negligent behavior allow the statute of limitations to expire, it can prevent your client from filing a case, which can also cause them to forfeit just compensation.


No matter the case, clients forced to file a malpractice suit against you are then burdened again as they suffer through a more lengthy legal process.


How can legal malpractice be prevented?


  • Be sure you are working in your client’s best interest – There are many ways that legal malpractice can be avoided, including, first, being sure you are working in the client’s best interest and not your own, which will ensure they get what they want and nothing less.
  • Charge reasonable fees – It is also important to charge reasonable fees to ensure you don’t receive more than the client, which can quickly cause you to be hit with a malpractice suit.
  • Keep your contingency fee below 60 percent – You should also be clear on your contingency fee, which should be no more than 60 percent of the settlement, including your expenses.
  • Be clear in your hourly billing – You should avoid entering vague charges in your hourly billing because it can spark mistrust and thus result in a lawsuit.
  • Get everything in writing – In cases where your client decides against suing, decides not to include an expert witness, or consents to any other omissions, it should be in writing to show that it was what they wanted so they can not blame you for the outcome later.
  • Be honest and apologetic about your mistakes – If it is your goal to work in your client’s best interest, then it also includes letting them know if you make a mistake. This way, you can work together on a solution to resolve it in a way that works best for them. Also be sure to apologize for your mistake because any defensive reactions on your behalf can be taken as hostile, which can make them respond with a lawsuit.
  • Allow your client to sit in on the settlement process – If your client decides to settle, then be sure to include them in all settlement discussions. This way, they are a part of the process, so they feel more trustworthy and in control regarding any negations made on their behalf.
  • Invest in malpractice insurance – Even the most seasoned lawyer can commit malpractice unintentionally, in which case it pays to have malpractice insurance to ensure your law firm, you, and your clients are also protected in cases of accidental negligence.


Tips for keeping yourself informed


One way to stay informed about your ethical and legal obligations as a lawyer is to contact an ethics hotline for attorneys in your state. You can also speak with a legal malpractice attorney to stay up to date on your responsibilities in the client-attorney relationship.

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