There is a fine line between a mistake and malpractice. Every person will make mistakes at some point, and lawyers are not immune. However, some mistakes cross the line and become malpractice because they were so severe or should never have happened.
The American Bar Association explains there are three general guidelines you can apply to a situation to determine if a mistake occurred or if it may be malpractice.
To have a malpractice case, the actions of the attorney must have a negative impact on the client. The client must suffer some type of loss or damage. This can be difficult to prove because if the claim is the actions of the attorney caused the client to lose his or her case, then the client must show he or she would have won the case if not for the mistake.
Another important aspect is proving the attorney was negligent. This means he or she did not adhere to general legal standards when making decisions or taking actions. In general, if any other attorney had been in the situation, they would not have acted in the same manner.
Back to the damages, they must be significant. This speaks to having to prove the loss and the impact it would have on the client. It must justify the costs and time it takes to file a malpractice case.
Legal malpractice often is a mistake that went too far. It is something an attorney should have been able to avoid but failed to do so and it had a significant impact on the client.