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How can I make a complaint against my lawyer?

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Q:

How can I make a complaint about my lawyer?

A:

If you feel that your attorney did not do a competent job in representing your case, or if you believe that your attorney's actions were negligent, then you have the option to file a complaint or sue for malpractice. There are different steps that you can take in order to address your situation. It should be noted, however, that your disappointment with the outcome of a case does not necessarily equate to negligence on the part of your attorney.

There are three steps that you can take in order to file a complaint against an attorney for negligence:

Step 1: File a Complaint with the State Bar

The state bar will review your complaint and see if actions should be taken against the attorney. The bar will generally examine complaints about misconduct, and if it discovers a problem, it may recommend that you seek further action.

Step 2: File a Complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office

The state attorney only investigates specific acts of illegal activity. This includes things like the misappropriation of funds or the misuse of retainer fees. If your attorney acted in a manner that constitutes a civil rights offense, or if they made inappropriate suggestions, then the attorney general's office can handle these types of case.

Step 3: Hire a Legal Malpractice Attorney

Most cases would require you to hire a legal malpractice attorney when suing for legal malpractice. Legal malpractice is normally a difficult case to prove, but it can be accomplished. Malpractice includes any negligent act on the part of your attorney when the latter handled your case.

Proving Legal Malpractice

In legal malpractice cases, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the actions of their attorney caused harm to their case. You must remember that you do not need to actually lose your case in order to hold your attorney liable for malpractice—if the outcome of your case became questionable or is less than ideal because of the negligence of your lawyer, then you can still sue for malpractice.

Some examples that may qualify as legal malpractice include:

  • The attorney fails to work on your case in a timely manner, and the case is dismissed due to failure to comply with deadlines.
  • Your case is dismissed because the attorney fails to thoroughly represent your case before the court.
  • The attorney agrees to a settlement amount without your knowledge or agreement.
  • Misuse of settlement monies or retainer fees.
  • Clerical errors. These could include any type of error made by the attorney or their staff, which causes a problem with your case.
  • Failure to properly apply the law to the case. This generally occurs in contractual law or in the area of wills and family law.

What to Do if You Believe You Are a Victim

If you believe that you have been the victim of legal malpractice, then you should immediately speak to another attorney who handles legal malpractice cases. Your new attorney can then look through the facts of your case, and help determine if you should seek legal action through the courts against the attorney or file a different type of complaint.

Because there is such a large requirement on the plaintiff to prove legal malpractice, it is important to start with initial legal advice from a legal malpractice attorney, and then go from there to seek justice against your negligent attorney.

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