Your Attorney’s Competence:

When A Lawsuit Is Not Enough



When your lawyer makes a mistake that impacts your case, you might have a claim against your lawyer.  Examples of common mistakes are when your lawyer misses important deadlines or fails to handle your case appropriately.  While lawyers are not guarantors of a particular result and are not expected to nevermake mistakes, some mistakes are so great that a lawsuit is appropriate.


But not always.


And some mistakes are even more serious and can result in a disciplinary action against the lawyer.  This is separate from any lawsuit you might have aganst your former lawyer.


Appropriate Sanctions for Incompetence


Incompetence not only leads to poor outcomes for clients but, in some situations, it can also result in appropriate discipline for the incompetent lawyer.


When a lawyer’s incompetence causes injury or potential injury to a client, the following sanctions are generally appropriate:

Disbarment, when the lawyer does not understand “the most fundamental legal doctrines or procedures”;
Suspension, when the lawyer engages in an area of practice in which the lawyer knows he is not competent; and,
Reprimand, when the lawyer either fails to understand relevant legal doctrines or procedures, or is negligent in determining whether he is competent to handle a legal matter.


When a lawyer’s incompetence causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client, the following sanction is generally appropriate:

Admonition, when the lawyer engages in an isolated instance of negligence in determining whether he or she is competent to handle a legal matter

Whaley Law Firm has experience working with clients whose former attorneys failed to provide appropriate legal representation and suffered harm as a result. That harm can come in many forms.  Whaley Law Firm can help you assess the strength of your case and the appropriate next step.


Additional Sources:


Ronald E. Mallen & Jeffrey M. Smith, Legal Malpractice §19 (1st ed. 2006).