What qualifies for a malpractice against an attorney?

Asked over 2 years ago - Salem, OR

lawyer gave me advise, caused me to unknowingly commit a crime.I asked if it was ok,encouraged to continue! breach confidentualty
lawyer refused to respond in writing, to letters,motions from the other party in divorce causing me all kinds of problems, and even motion to file show cause.
laywer refused to answer my calls, emails, make an appointment to prevent my being in contempt when I asked for him to respond to the motion to show cause.
He filed papers in court on my behalf without my knowledge that I would not approve, and I asked not to do this particular again without telling me,
he agreed to agreements I said no to, including at court without my consent.
did not give me copies of all filed on my behalf when asked. what is recourse?

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Jay Bodzin

    Contributor Level 20

    2

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . There are two different possible issues here: malpractice, and ethical violations. They're not necessarily the same thing, although some kinds of mistakes might be both.

    Malpractice occurs when an attorney's representation falls below the standard of professionalism and competence adhered to by other lawyers in their community, and harm comes to the client as a result. Losing a case is not automatically malpractice; by definition, half the cases that are tried are lost. Not every mistake constitute malpractice. The mistake must be below the standard of professional conduct in the community. Missing a filing deadline or statute of limitations is almost always malpractice (which is why, if you come to an attorney with a filing deadline TOMORROW, they probably won't take the case). Failing to file a response to something that they received is probably malpractice. Advising a client to commit a crime is probably malpractice. However, in order for any of these things to be legally actionable, the client has to suffer some harm as a direct consequence. If your attorney makes a blatant mistake like that, but no harm results - say, because the opposing side dies the next day, and so the case is dismissed - then even though they committed a malpractice-worthy error, you can't sue them for it. (This is true for almost all legal wrongs - to recover, you need to show your damages.)

    All Oregon attorneys carry malpractice liability insurance through the Oregon State Bar's Professional Liability Fund. The PLF will defend lawyers accused of malpractice, but it will also pay to either have other, more experienced lawyers fix their mistakes, or will pay the victims of malpractice compensation directly. If you believe you've been subject to attorney malpractice, you can contact the PLF (online at http://osbplf.org/index.asp?page=login ). It would be a good idea to run your situation by another attorney and let them decide whether it merits a PLF claim, and help you make it.

    Ethical breaches are different. An attorney commits an ethical breach when they fail to adhere to the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct. Ethical breaches are actionable even if they don't cost the client any money. Ethical breaches might include agreeing to settlements without the client's consent (though the client doesn't need to consent to every technical and strategic decision in a case), failing to communicate with reasonable promptness, or filing motions to do things on your behalf that you didn't want to do (unless, perhaps, you were legally required to do so).

    Ethical breaches should be reported to the Oregon State Bar's Client Assistance Office (online at http://osbar.org/cao ). There may be a variety of options open to you, depending on exactly what happened.

    Nothing posted on this site is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Each case is unique. You are... more

Related Topics

Legal malpractice and negligence

Legal malpractice is when an attorney harms a client through unreasonable errors, and harm would not have occurred "but for" the errors.

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