Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to meet the professional and ethical standards of being a lawyer. The harm can be to the court, a client, opposing counsel or a party unrelated to the action. Ultimately legal malpractice's biggest victim is the lawyer who perpetrates the wrong.
As unique as the cases themselves, legal malpractice can come in a variety of forms. Avoiding legal malpractice, whenever possible, will not only help preserve your professional reputation but also allow you to concentrate on what you are good at -- being a lawyer. Here are some ways to avoid legal malpractice.
- Communicate. Communication is essential and whenever possible should be put in writing. Creating a paper trail of conversations is not only helpful for your legal relationship but also for your legal protection.
- Meet expectations. The last thing you want and the easiest way to be charged with negligence (even if it is not true) is to fall short of your client's expectations regarding their case and your services. In order to maintain the same goals, you need to be in control of their expectations. As the expert you can be optimistic but that should not come at the expense of realism.
- Inform. Along the same thread as communication, keeping the client informed along the way not only allows for maintaining expectations but also showing your continued work.
- Know your limits. Knowing what you don't know may sound like a silly concept when it comes to taking clients. But the reality is that you need to make sure you are taking cases that you can handle are or comfortable with. Whether it is the area of law or the nature of the case that is unfamiliar, better to refer it out than have a case you can't handle.
- Stay organized. From court deadlines to client demands, there is a lot on your plate and it is easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Maybe your client's case is not your biggest issue but it is to them. Staying organized and aware of your obligations will ensure that they feel important and you stay on track.
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