10 Common Legal Malpractice Claims

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Legal Malpractice
10 Common Legal Malpractice Claims

Hiring and trusting a lawyer to help you with some daunting challenge, only to have that trust violated can leave many weary of ever working with a lawyer again. However, if your lawyer’s breach of fiduciary duty or malpractice causes you to lose a case you should have won, or face a negative consequence as a result of their negligence, you shouldn’t let the experience color your view of all lawyers. In fact, it will be another lawyer – one that you can truly trust and count on – who will help you to recover the damages you suffered as a result of the actions, or inaction, of your former counsel.

The Helbraun Law Firm zealously advocates on behalf of clients harmed by the malpractice of their former attorneys.  We have considerable experience handling legal malpractice claims. Some of the most common claims include the following situations:

Failure to Know or Apply the Law

According to the American Bar Association, the most frequently cited lawyer error is the failure to know or apply the law. While lawyers are not expected to know every law, they are expected to have a better understanding of the law and to be competent in their area of practice. Additionally, they should know how to research a legal issue so that they can learn the finer points of the law, and effectively advocate for their client’s position.

Misuse of Client Funds

The misuse of client funds is a breach of fiduciary duty.  The California Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to deposit client funds in a trust account and safeguard these funds. They must also keep meticulous records of the funds and any disbursements.

Inadequate Investigation or Discovery

Attorneys are expected to pursue all relevant information regarding a case.  They have various tools at their disposal to help accomplish this task. If they fail to properly investigate the claim or conduct discovery and their client is adversely affected, they may face a legal malpractice claim.

Conflict of Interest

The California Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from taking on a case if  a conflict of interest would result.. In some situations, the lawyer may be permitted to take on a matter if they first obtain the informed, written, consent of all affected clients. A conflict of interest can also exist if a lawyer has a personal stake in a matter that could influence their professional advice or representation.

Failing to Communicate with Your Client

Clients expect their lawyers to stay in touch with them, notify them of developments in their case, and reasonably advise about the legal merits of the client’s position. The California Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to:

·         Promptly inform clients of any decision that requires their informed consent

·         Reasonably consult with the client about how to accomplish their objectives in the legal representation

·         Reasonably keep the client informed about developments in their case

Missed Deadlines

One of the most basic types of legal malpractice is missing a deadline: the client may be barred from seeking redress in the court for the underlying legal matter. For example, if a lawyer lets the statute of limitations on a claim expire without timely protecting the client’s claim,  then the client will lose the ability to pursue the matter at all.  Similarly, “failure to calendar” can result in missed hearings, documents, or other important matters that can lead to adverse consequences for the client’s matter. .


Lawyers are expected to maintain the integrity of the legal profession. If they intentionally deceive their clients or others involved in the legal process to obtain unlawful gain, they may be liable for  fraud  and  legal malpractice.

Planning Errors

The practice of law requires a careful analysis of the facts and the development of an effective legal strategy. If a lawyer does not adequately plan, they can make serious errors that harm their clients, such as failing to interview witnesses, failing to recognize a valid legal argument or defense, losing important documents, failing to be aware of important recent case law developments, or failing to file potentially important motions with the court.

Lack of Consent

Lawyers are required to obtain consent from their client before taking certain actions on their case, such as accepting a plea bargain on behalf of a criminal defendant,r accepting a settlement on behalf of a personal injury client. Failing to obtain consent can sometimes provide the basis of a legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claim.

Clerical Error

According to Ames & Gough’s 12th annual survey of Lawyers’ Professional Liability claims results, clerical errors were ranked as the second leading cause of legal malpractice claims.

What to Do If You Are Facing a Legal Malpractice Claim

If you believe you have a legal malpractice claim, it is important to understand these allegations. Call our firm at (415) 982-4000 or contact us online to learn more.

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