Generally, when you hire an attorney to represent yourself or your business, you are in a difficult time. You need sound advice and strong advocacy from a trusted source of legal information.
Most of the time, that is what you get. But lawyers are human. They are capable of mistakes just like everybody else. For the client, the real problem is when they lose a lawsuit or find themselves in a bad contract is figuring out whether their lawyer had a bad day, or if they committed legal malpractice.
Red flags of possibly unethical behavior
The line between an unfortunate but honest error and negligent legal representation can be hard to find. But there are signs that your lawyer may have committed malpractice against you. Here are some red flags:
- Poor communication. If your attorney does not reply promptly to your emails, texts and phone messages, that is a bad sign. Every attorney who values their clients makes clear communication a priority.
- Lack of enthusiasm/overconfidence. A lawyer who does not seem to care about your case or lacks confidence may not be giving you the level of representation you deserve. On the other hand, an attorney who makes wild promises or acts overconfident may not be representing you well either.
- Confusing billing statements. If your legal bills are for more than you expected or you don’t understand what your attorney was doing during those billed hours, it could be a sign that you are being deceived.
- Unprofessional behavior. Things like failing to show up for court appearances and important meetings, failing to file paperwork on time and making decisions about your case without your permission can be more than unprofessional. They can be signs of unethical representation.
- Lack of respect. Respect is earned in the legal community. When the lawyers working for the other party don’t seem to respect the person representing you, that could be a bad sign.
None of these are necessarily evidence that your attorney was negligent and not merely incompetent. But these are things you should discuss with an attorney who practices legal malpractice law.