Lawyers, like medical professionals, have standards under which they are expected to perform. As a client, you should expect to receive a certain level of performance from your lawyer, just as you would expect certain treatments from your doctor. That is not to say that you are guaranteed a particular outcome of your case, but you can expect your attorney to do his or her best to protect your interests in that case, whether the matter is criminal or civil. When your lawyer does not act in a way that a reasonable attorney is expected to act, you may have a case for legal malpractice.
The specifics of what constitutes legal malpractice may vary from state to state but, generally speaking, the following actions are the basis of a legal malpractice case:
- Breach of contract
- Violation of fiduciary responsibility
Similar to a medical malpractice case, the victim of legal malpractice must prove that he or she suffered some sort of significant injury. With legal malpractice, the injury is not physical; rather it would be in the form of a guilty verdict in a criminal case or an insufficient judgment in a civil case. It must also be proven that the injury was a direct result of the attorney’s actions or lack of action and that the injury was significant enough to warrant a case of legal malpractice.
Proving legal malpractice
In order to prove legal malpractice, it must first be proven that the original case would have had a different outcome if not for the actions or inaction of the lawyer involved. In a criminal case that means you would have to show that you would not have been convicted had the defense attorney acted differently. In a civil case, you would have to prove either that you would have won the case or received a larger settlement if not for the actions of your attorney. In order to do this, it may be necessary first to present the original case over again. This is often referred to as a trial-within-a-trial.
The attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm have experience in both criminal and civil defense cases. They are familiar with the legal malpractice laws as they pertain to the State of New Jersey and can evaluate the facts of your case. If it is determined that you have a valid legal malpractice claim, our attorneys are prepared to work toward seeking the verdict or settlement to which you are entitled.