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Really newb question: are attorneys liable for their legal advice to clients?

San Jose, CA |

If my attorney gives me false information, makes a mistake, or inadequately performs his/her job, what can I do? Furthermore, if I am sued by someone else due to a mistake my attorney makes, is the attorney liable?

Also, I feel the law is quite ambiguous at times and that even lawyers often have differing interpretations of it. Since I'm paying them and putting myself at risk by entrusting them, shouldn't they be liable for their advice?

Attorney Answers 3


There is no simple answer to your question. The world is a complicated place and for that reason the law may seem ambiguous at times. Lawyers can be liable for giving bad advice under some circumstances. Take a look at my Avvo guide on legal ethics and legal malpractice for more detailed information.

Any opinions stated in response to Avvo questions are based upon the facts stated in the question. Responses to Avvo questions are for general information purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice.

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2 lawyers agree


Your question is a bit too general to answer.

In litigation, some "mistakes" are fixable.

Whether or not the attorney is liable for malpractice or for damages you sustained as a result of the attorney's advice depends entirely on the specific facts.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

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You ask really excellent questions. To sue a lawyer successfully for bad advice that you relied on (and which caused you real damages) you need to prove that the advice was so bad that it fell below the standard of care. Let's use a medical analogy: A 55 year old woman shows her doctor a large lump in her breast and the doctor says, "Don't worry about it," and it turns out be cancer and kills her. The doctor's advice was so bad it fell below the standard of care. Now let's say a 22 year old man goes to a doctor and complains of bright red rectal bleeding along with a bunch of other unrelated issues. If the doctor says, "It's probably hemmorhoids," and doesn't send the patient for a specialized rectal exam or colonoscopy and it turns out to be rectal cancer and it kills the patient, maybe it's a good medical malpractice case and maybe it isn't because maybe the advice was not really bad enough. There are many court decisions which say that if lawyers themselves have difficulty interpreting the law, a mistaken interpretation is not legal malpractice.

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