There are two basic reasons to head to an attorney’s office: You’re either trying to prevent a problem from occurring or you’re attempting to deal with a problem that’s already developed.
In both cases, you need to be able to rely on your attorney to provide sound representation and a commitment to do their best on your behalf.
While there are no guarantees in any legal situation, there are certain “red flags” that should make you worry about your attorney’s competence, ethics or interest in your case.
What kinds of problems could forewarn a legal malpractice claim?
Be on the alert for the following signs of trouble with an attorney:
- Your attorney doesn’t respond to your calls or communications in a timely manner. While your attorney can’t be available around-the-clock, you shouldn’t have to chase them down for days or weeks to get answers to your questions.
- Your retainer disappears. When you pay your attorney a retainer, it is supposed to go into a trust account — to be spent as your case progresses. If your retainer seems to vanish and you suspect that your attorney spent it long before your case began, that could be a misuse of funds.
- Your settlement doesn’t get to you. Similarly, when you get a settlement in a lawsuit, your attorney is supposed to deliver the bulk of that money (less fees, court costs and anything else that needs to be paid) to you right away. If you haven’t gotten your money after a reasonable time, that’s a big issue.
- Your attorney isn’t really that into your case. Maybe they didn’t bother much with the discovery process of your claim, have a secret conflict of interest that is influencing their actions, or just hasn’t put any time into understanding the laws that apply, that’s a sure sign of trouble.
- Your attorney doesn’t give you any choices. Your attorney doesn’t have the right to make decisions for you. If they didn’t tell you about an offer the other party made or they failed to follow your instructions, that is definitely an issue.
Understanding the difference between a poor outcome in your case and legal malpractice can be challenging. If you have concerns, however, you should find an attorney who handles legal malpractice claims and discuss your situation right away.