When faced with a legal problem, people rely on their attorneys to properly advise and represent them. Because legal matters are so complicated, people are dependent upon their attorneys to act in their best interests. This gives attorneys significant power over their clients, but taking advantage of that power comes with severe penalties. Because of the advantage given them by their extensive knowledge of the law, attorneys are required to comply with a code of ethics known as the Model Rules of Ethics adopted in some form by every state. These rules require all attorneys to act with honesty, good faith, fairness, integrity, and fidelity.
To ensure that an attorney does right by her clients, they are bound by attorney-client privilege. This prohibits attorneys from using or disclosing any confidential information obtained as a result of their professional relationship with the client. This privilege remains in effect even after the relationship between the attorney and the client has been terminated.
Part of an attorney's job frequently involves handling money or property for her clients. If this is the case, the attorney is required to provide the client with a full, detailed, and accurate account of all of the money and property that was handled for the client. Furthermore, the attorney must keep the clients property or funds separate from the attorney’s. The attorney must also promptly notify of and deliver to the client any funds that are received on behalf of the client. If an attorney fails to pay all of the client's funds to the client in a timely manner, the attorney may be liable to pay interest on those funds.
In most cases, an attorney is not the only one in a position to take advantage of a client. Many attorneys have associates, partners, clerks, and legal assistants, all of whom might be given access to a client's sensitive information. In the event that fraud is committed by any of these people, the attorney could be responsible for any illegal behavior conducted by these co-workers.
When most people think of legal malpractice, more often than not, they think of negligence. This happens when an attorney commits an error which would have been avoided by a more competent attorney exercising a reasonable standard of care. An attorney may be accused of negligence if she gave improper advice, failed to properly prepare or file documents, or made a faulty analysis in examining the merits of a case.
Many lawsuits alleging negligence are filed as a result of poor communication. If an attorney fails to communicate to the client the difficult realities of a situation, the client may believe that the attorney is responsible for losing the case and file a claim for negligence.
If an attorney commits malpractice, she may be liable for harming individuals other than her client. In some cases, a third party can file a claim for damages as a result of an attorney's malpractice, including tort claims which may allege malicious prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, or infliction of emotional distress.
Attorney's fees are another area where legal malpractice is likely to be an issue. If a client fails to pay her attorney and the attorney sues in order to recover the fees, the client may claim malpractice as a defense.
Aside from filing a claim in court, victims of legal malpractice also have the option of filing a complaint with the state bar in the state in which the attorney practices law. The bar is obligated to investigate the matter and the attorney is required to cooperate with the investigation or face further sanctions. The bar has the authority to discipline its attorneys up to and including disbarment.
The attorneys at DiTommaso have decades of experience litigating legal malpractice cases. People who recruit the services of an attorney are uniquely vulnerable and we are dedicated to protecting your rights to be fairly and competently represented. With offices conveniently located in Oakbrook Terrace and Chicago, Illinois, we have represented clients all over the Midwest. To consult with an experienced attorney today, you can contact us online or give us a call at 630-333-0000.