An attorney commits legal malpractice when he or she fails to comply with the state's code of ethics, or rules of professional conduct. In New Jersey, there are over 50 rules of professional conduct. This means that an attorney can commit legal malpractice in a variety of ways. Some claims of legal malpractice are more common than others.
The most common legal malpractice complaint is that an attorney failed to know or apply relevant law to the client’s case. Under the New Jersey rules of professional conduct, every attorney is required to provide competent and skillful representation. In order to be competent, an attorney must be knowledgeable and thorough when representing a client. The attorney must also take reasonable steps to become competent in any area of law with which he or she not familiar. If an attorney fails to act competently and the client is harmed in some way by the attorney’s negligence, the client may have a legal malpractice claim.
The second and third most common legal malpractice claims also relate to an attorney’s competence. The second most common legal malpractice complaint is that an attorney made some error in planning. The third is that the attorney did not conduct adequate discovery or investigation at the start of the case.
Other common claims of legal malpractice include missing deadlines, failing to obtain the client’s consent for things like settlement offers, failing to follow instructions, and communicating poorly. Legal malpractice claims also arise when the attorney has some conflict of interest, such as when the attorney and opposing counsel have a close relationship.
Clearly, legal malpractice can occur in a number of different circumstances. This post is intended to provide an overview of some of the most common forms of malpractice. If you would like to file a legal malpractice lawsuit, you may find it helpful to speak with an attorney who has experience in these types of cases.
Source: American Bar Association, “The Most Common Legal Malpractice Claims by Type of Alleged Error,” Dan Pinnington, Accessed June 14, 2015