Attorneys are professionals and have a fiduciary duty to their clients. The American Bar Association and the State Bar of California have rules of professional conduct that attorneys must comply with. One of the most important requirements is that attorneys perform their jobs with competence. When a lawyer fails to provide professional, quality service, this failure can be considered legal malpractice.
An attorney can be sued for legal malpractice. Those who are harmed as a result of a lawyer’s substandard performance can pursue a civil lawsuit and seek monetary damages. In the case of a criminal trial, a person whose lawyer is incompetent may also seek to overturn the conviction on appeal as a result of ineffective counsel.
What is Legal Malpractice?
The State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct establish a duty of competence in Rule 3-110. According to the rules, any attorney who practices in California is prohibited from “intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly” failing “to perform legal services with competence.”
An attorney performs with competence when the lawyer has and utilizes the skills, mental, physical, and emotional abilities, reasoning abilities, and diligence necessary to perform requested legal services for the clients. When an attorney does not have sufficient skill and knowledge in a particular area of the law but takes on the case anyway, it is the attorney’s duty to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to serve the client or to get help from another legal professional with the required skills.
An attorney who violates the State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct could face disciplinary action by the Bar Association. An attorney who fails to provide professional, competent representation can also face a civil lawsuit from the client who was harmed by the attorney’s failures.
Civil Lawsuits for Legal Malpractice
The California Civil Jury Instructions explain that a professional is “negligent if he fails to use the skill and care that a reasonable professional would have used in similar circumstances.” A client whose attorney is negligent can file a legal malpractice civil lawsuit. It is up to the jury to determine what a skilled legal professional would have done under the circumstances. The plaintiff who has filed a legal malpractice lawsuit should present expert witnesses and other evidence necessary to show the jury why the attorney fell short of his obligations in this particular circumstance.
In Section 601, the California Civil Jury Instructions set forth another requirement for a plaintiff who wishes to prove legal malpractice occurred. In order to recover damages from an attorney for legal malpractice, the lawyer’s client has to prove that a different outcome to the case would have occurred if the lawyer had been reasonably competent. In other words, legal malpractice is actionable and a victim of attorney negligence can recover compensation only if there were actual provable damages caused by the lawyer’s failures.
Getting Legal Help from a Long Beach Legal Malpractice Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
The Law Office of Michael D. Waks provides representation to clients who have been damaged by legal malpractice. If you believe an attorney who represented you caused you to lose a case or suffer damages or losses, give us a call at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
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