Questions To Ask When Your Lawyer Has Made A Mistake

If your legal proceeding or matter has gone poorly, you are most likely very upset. There could be many reasons for the bad result that are unrelated to the lawyering, but most clients do not know whether the bad result was caused by their attorney's malpractice or some other reason.

Sometimes the attorney's malpractice is obvious (not filing a complaint on time). Other times it is not so obvious (drafting errors in contracts, wills, trusts, or failing to foresee the tax or business ramifications of a transaction). However, when you obtain a result in a legal proceeding that comes as a surprise to you (i.e., a risk that your attorney did not warn you about), this should raise a red flag.

If that is the case, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit. Malpractice lawsuits in the legal field can be difficult to win, but they are definitely an option if you have good evidence of your lawyer mishandling your case and caused you to lose your case or a significant part of your case.

At Browning|Hocker, our founding attorney Robert N. Hocker has successfully handled many legal malpractice cases. He blends his background as a former defense attorney for lawyers accused of malpractice with his experience as a plaintiff representative for a variety of civil cases to deliver optimal results for clients.

My Lawyer Made A Mistake — What Do I Do?

  • Have you spoken with your attorney about the mistake? Bring the mistake to his or her attention. It can be helpful to document this in writing with an email or letter that states what you feel happened and what actions your attorney suggests be taken to fix or mitigate the mistake. All professionals, including lawyers, make mistakes, but many mistakes can be fixed. If the mistake can be fixed and is fixed, you will not need to sue for malpractice.
  • Can you document the mistake? Gather written proof of your attempts to communicate, the fees you have paid, what documents the lawyer did or did not file on your behalf with the court, and so on. Strong malpractice cases are founded on the contents of the lawyer's legal file and his/her communications (or lack thereof) with the client.
  • Were you financially harmed by the attorney's error? This question is critical. If you cannot answer "yes" to this question, you do not have a case. Further, the amount of damage needs to be significant. It does not make sense to file and litigate a legal malpractice case if damages are small.
  • Have you sought out a second opinion? Legal malpractice cases can be complex. Discussing your situation with an experienced legal malpractice attorney is essential to discovering your options.

What Do I Do To Report Lawyer Misbehavior?

In California, you can report a lawyer to The State Bar of California for unethical behavior. While this process is not always swift, it can be a viable option if you are unable to prove that you suffered a financial loss. The State Bar of California can discipline an attorney but it will not award you damages for your loss.

Get A Second Opinion On Lawyer Bad Behavior

Our legal malpractice attorney can provide frank assessments of attorney behavior and help you map out next steps. Call Robert N. Hocker directly at 619-235-6818, or use our online intake form get started. We serve the greater San Diego area, as well as select cases throughout California.