Attacks on an attorney’s practice can come from many directions – complaints regarding an attorney’s competence, ethics, professionalism or case management, just to name a few. Complaints against attorneys are often unfounded and are driven by hurt feelings, dissatisfaction with the outcome of a case, or a misunderstanding of what work was performed in the course of a representation. At the same time, many instances of malpractice do occur, ranging from negligence and incompetence to violation of an attorney’s ethical code of conduct. The legal profession owes a duty to itself and the public to regulate the conduct of its members and maintain a high degree of professionalism among its ranks. Likewise, persons accused of malpractice have their reputation and their career on the line and are entitled to a vigorous defense. The attorneys at Brault Graham provide knowledgeable, seasoned and effective representation in the defense of legal malpractice claims in Baltimore, Washington and surrounding areas.
Common Legal Malpractice Complaints
A typical case of negligence or professional malpractice hinges upon the existence of a duty, the breach of that duty, and damages or harm as a result. In the case of legal malpractice, this model most often translates to the existence of a lawyer-client relationship, substandard performance, and financial loss. Proving or defending each of these elements can be critical to a legal malpractice complaint. The attorneys at Brault Graham are well-versed in the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct and applicable court cases and ethics opinions. The firm handles many different types of legal malpractice cases, including the following:
- The Lawyer-Client Relationship – claims that the lawyer did not practice competently or diligently, failed to keep the client adequately informed or failed to maintain client confidentiality; allegations of deception or dishonesty with the client, the court or opposing counsel
- Case Mismanagement – allegations of missed deadlines which adversely affected the client; failing to perform required work; settling or refusing settlement offers without authority from the client
- Fiduciary Duties – failing to maintain client funds in a separate account; diverting or misusing client funds; conflicts of interest between lawyer and client or between client and another client
- Fee Disputes – overcharging; fraudulent billing practices; charging for work performed by a junior associate or paralegal at the higher partner rate; “unreasonable” fees or expenses
- Maintaining an Improper Personal Relationship with the Client
Proving Malpractice or Lack of Competence
When a party has lost an arbitration, trial or appeal, or has come out behind in a negotiation, settlement or business transaction, that party may be quick to assume that the negative outcome is the result of the attorney’s lack of competence. Yet not every instance of unsuccessful representation is the result of legal malpractice. In fact, most simply aren’t. The American legal system is adversarial nature, and the outcome of a dispute often leaves one party in the shoes of the winner and the other party feeling like the loser. This does not mean malpractice necessarily occurred.
In evaluating an attorney’s competence, the law applies an objective standard; it asks, how would a reasonably prudent attorney in similar circumstances have acted? Arriving at this answer can be a complicated matter and may require extensive case research and the use of expert witness testimony. In many instances, it must be shown that the outcome of the representation would have been different had the attorney acted differently. Proving this often requires litigating the underlying matter to its conclusion in order to establish whether or not malpractice was present. As a law firm with decades of experience devoted to civil litigation, Brault Graham excels in this aspect of legal malpractice litigation, known as trying the “case within the case.”
Contact Brault Graham for Assistance in Washington, D.C. or Maryland Legal Malpractice Matters
To consult with an experienced attorney regarding a legal malpractice complaint in Washington, D.C. or Maryland please contact us at 301-424-1060.