A Legal Malpractice Attorney Explains How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Negligent Lawyering
By: Daniel L. Abrams
Published in The New York Enterprise Report January 15, 2005
While all business owners would like to believe that their legal counsel is trustworthy (chances are that you got your lawyer through a referral or some good networking contacts), a fair number of businesses get into serious trouble because of negligent lawyering. Whether it is bad tax advice leading to an IRS penalty, disclosure of confidential information to a key competitor or a failure to call key witnesses at a major trial, mistakes by attorneys can cripple a small or medium-size business.
Since as a business owner you are not trained in legal matters, it is particularly important for you to be aware of the warning signs that your lawyer may be negligent.
Five Signs That the Attorney You Hired Is Not Doing a Good Job
- Your attorney does not return phone calls, e-mails, etc. This means that either he is so busy that he does not have time to talk to you or he is neglecting your legal matters. Neither scenario is appealing. If he cannot demonstrate simple politeness and pick up a phone to talk, what are the chances that your work is actually getting the attention it deserves?
- You receive a legal bill that does not explain what services were rendered. Most attorneys will tell their clients exactly what they are doing. An attorney who is evasive is probably being evasive for a reason.
- Your employees, friends or other business colleagues complain to you or express skepticism about your lawyer. This is not to suggest that attorneys should be fired over a personality conflict, but a common thread in several of my legal malpractice cases has been that the client had been “warned” by somebody about the attorney.
- You learn that your attorney has a previously undisclosed relationship with a competitor or litigation adversary. Attorneys are duty-bound to disclose all potential conflicts of interest, but there are many cases where attorneys fail to disclose all conflicts.
- Your attorney tells you that something requiring documentation was done, but you never actually see the paper.
These are usually signs that you should run, not walk, and find yourself another lawyer.