Most people are happy with their lawyer or at least not so unhappy that they want to sue them.  But when you lose a case you should win or pay a bunch of money and get no result, it’s not uncommon to want to sue.

The best reason to sue a lawyer and the one most likely to result in you getting money from a lawsuit is if the attorney failed to file a lawsuit in time. So if you hire them because you were rear-ended at a stoplight and they have two years to file a suit for you, if they don’t do it then you’d have a case against them.

That’s not the top reason people sue lawyers though. According to the ABA’s most recent Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims, “Failure to Know/Properly Apply Law,” was the most commonly alleged error committed by attorneys. Based on the data, this type of error accounted for more than 15% of all alleged errors. Basically it’s lawyers working on cases they don’t have a lot experience with or giving advice on things they know nothing about.

A lot of lawyers get calls for personal injury cases and think two things: 1. This will make me a bunch of money. 2. This will be a slam dunk.  So instead of referring the case to someone competent they try to handle it on their own.  They get in to it, are dealing with an experienced insurance adjuster and defense attorney and soon realize that they are in over their heads.

As a potential client you can minimize the chances of hiring a bad lawyer by choosing a law firm that has a narrow practice focus and can show a track record of some success.  Other red flags to look out for:

  • Is there high staff or attorney turnover?  If that happens it means someone who is inexperienced could end up with your file or they’d have to pick up the pieces well in to the case.  Ask who will be primarily handling your case, how many other lawyers there are and how long they’ve been there.
  • Are you working with a young lawyer who is given too much free reign by their boss.? Law school teaches you legal principles. It doesn’t teach you how to handle a case.  That comes from a good mentor or trial and error.  Don’t become the error in their trial.  I almost never recommend working with someone who has less than five years experience.
  • Do they not return phone calls or generally act rudely to you? If that’s happening at the get go, why would you want to be with them.  It’s a bad sign.
  • Are they really old?  I salute someone who is still practicing in their 70’s if they really love what they are doing, but more likely than not they are spending a ton of time in Florida or Arizona and if they are away your case will get neglected.

There are plenty of other red flags too, but these are the biggies to me.  Hopefully you never have to sue a lawyer and the best way to make that happen is by hiring the right one to begin with.