September 07, 2018

What is Legal Malpractice?

Legal Malpractice

You put a lot of trust in your attorney. You count on your lawyer to give you good advice about your legal options and decisions. While most lawyers are competent and do good work, there are situations where a lawyer makes a careless mistake in a case that causes harm to the client. When this happens, and your legal claim is threatened, or you lose money, you may have a legal malpractice claim.

Legal Malpractice: The Basics

Attorneys are held to a certain standard of care as professionals, just like doctors, contractors, or financial consultants. When your lawyer’s conduct falls below that standard, you may have a claim for legal malpractice.

Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer provides poor, insufficient, or deficient representation in your legal case. That bad representation ends up costing you money because your legal claim was not pursued properly. This does not mean that losing equals malpractice. Nor will every mistake result in a legal malpractice claim.  Only when a lawyer’s conduct falls below the standard of care can a client sue his or her lawyer for malpractice.

What Kind of Actions Result in Legal Malpractice?

Wisconsin does not have specific rules about what type of actions or mistakes are considered legal malpractice. Instead, the court will examine the unique facts of each situation to determine whether malpractice occurred. The Wisconsin courts use the following terms to describe the duty of care that an attorney owes his or her client:

  • Skill and care
  • Good judgment
  • Knowledge
  • Diligence
  • Reasonable
  • Careful
  • Prudent

Attorneys have a lot of discretion in how they represent their clients. However, there are specific actions that virtually every lawyer would take under particular circumstances. When a lawyer violates this expectation, a legal malpractice claim can result.

Missing deadlines and failing to adequately prepare are by far the most common actions that lead to legal malpractice claims.

Proving Legal Malpractice

Most plaintiffs will need to show the following to prevail on a legal malpractice claim.

  1. There is an attorney-client relationship. This connection is usually established by showing that there was a written contract to provide legal services. However, an agreement to provide legal services can be verbal or implied as well.
  2. The lawyer did not exercise the care, skill, or diligence that is commonly used by other attorneys in similar situations. Proving this element may require that you get expert testimony about the standard of care that attorneys provide to their clients.
  3. Your case would have been successful if not for your attorney’s actions.As part of your claim, you must also show that you were harmed in some way. In most cases, that means that you would have gotten more money out of your legal claim or you would have won the underlying lawsuit.

Contact Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP

Legal malpractice cases are sometimes referred to as a “lawsuit within a lawsuit.” This is because you have to not only show the attorney’s mistake or error, but you also have to prove the requirements of your underlying claim as well. As a result, legal malpractice claims can be very complicated.

You should not start this type of legal malpractice claim without an experienced attorney on your side. Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP can help. Our team has the dedication and passion to help you get what you deserve after your previous lawyer makes a mistake. Contact GCW today to learn more and schedule a free consultation. We bring the fight. And we are ready for battle.

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