When you go to a lawyer for help, you expect a great degree of care, as you rightly should. Attorney-client relationships are fiduciary in nature. They require that you be able to trust your lawyer and that he or she faithfully executes his or her duties of care. Legal malpractice may occur when an attorney is negligent, fails to pay attention to critical deadlines such as the statute of limitations, or offers advice that damages the client’s interests. However, it does not occur when an attorney behaves prudently, as another reasonable lawyer in the same practice area would, and yet there is a bad outcome, such as the loss of a jury trial. You can seek representation in this type of matter from the legal malpractice litigation lawyers at our firm. Based in Chicago, Loftus & Eisenberg serves clients throughout Cook County and beyond.Elements of a Legal Malpractice Claim
In order to prove legal malpractice, a client would need to establish the existence of an attorney-client relationship, a breach of the attorney’s duty of care to him or her, proximate causation, and financial harm due to the attorney’s breach. If any of these elements does not exist, the client does not have a case. For example, if an attorney told a criminal defendant to plead guilty, but he or she decided to plead not guilty and was eventually acquitted, this likely is not a case for legal malpractice. Similarly, if an attorney failed to show up at a court-mandated conference that was ultimately continued to another date, the client probably does not have a case for legal malpractice.
Common breaches of duty include failures to comply with the statute of limitations or other filing deadlines, mishandling of client funds, failing to follow a client’s reasonable instructions, breaching the duty of confidentiality or loyalty, fraud, and engaging in unfair dealing. If any of these caused you to experience a financial loss, you may have a case for legal malpractice.
Lawyers in Illinois must follow the Rules of Professional Conduct. Among other things, these rules require lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, to be competent and adhere to the relevant duty of care, and to tell the truth to third parties and courts. Any violation of these rules may be relevant to a case.
Take, for example, the rule of confidentiality. If you are a doctor, and your lawyer told a friend about your pending lawsuit and said you made a mistake during surgery, and that friend was a journalist who printed the information in a newspaper, causing many patients to leave your practice, this could be legal malpractice. Certain business tort theories might apply as well.
Remedies for legal malpractice can potentially include the money that a client would have obtained but for a breach of duty, the legal fees that were paid to the former lawyer, or the amount of the judgment that was imposed upon the client because of the lawyer’s breach of the duty of care.
Alexander Loftus recently settled a legal malpractice claim on behalf of a woman whose life savings was lost because her real estate attorney attorney negligently allowed his email account to be compromised by a phishing attack for 100% of his client’s loss.