We receive many calls and other inquiries from former clients of other firms who believe that their lawyer made an error or committed legal malpractice. Here are few suggestions for those who wish to call us.
First, make sure that you have proof that the lawyer agreed to represent you. Proof can be an engagement letter or a cancelled check. A cancelled check is often the best proof because it prevents the lawyer from arguing that there was no attorney-client relationship.
Second, make sure you have a record of what the lawyer sent to you in writing. All too often written communications have been lost or thrown away by clients, preventing us from understanding how the relationship deteriorated. Those written communications are critical. We often must spend lots of time tracking them down. Lawyers who have made an error often are reluctant to turn over their files.
Third, make sure you can identify the mistake of the lawyer. Just because you lost, does not mean that there was legal malpractice. If each went to trial, one-half of the litigants would lose, just as one-half of the major league baseball teams lose every single day.
Fourth, please make sure you can explain how you were harmed by the lawyer’s error. If it takes more than ten minutes to explain how you were harmed, you probably do not have a case. Good examples of real harm are (a) “I incurred X in legal fees to extricate myself from this mess;” (b) I lost my case because the lawyer missed the statute of limitations or failed to get an expert, etc., (c) my property settlement was based on false information because my lawyer did not do discovery.”
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.