You Do WHAT For a Living?

When I am asked what I do for a living when meeting people who do not know me, I respond that I am an attorney and I do “legal malpractice.”

I usually see a quizzical look on the face of the person who asked (because most non-lawyers are not familiar with legal malpractice). So I add: “That means I sue lawyers for a living.” There is usually a slight hesitation and then laughter when the person realizes that I sue lawyers and law firms, and not doctors, corporations, or anyone else. The typical delayed response is “You are probably not very popular with attorneys.”

That is something of an understatement. In the course of my more than 17 years of focusing my practice on legal malpractice, I have been pushed, cursed and yelled at and worse, by attorneys on the receiving end of a legal malpractice or fee dispute action. Though my work can be hazardous at times, if you review my background, you may understand why I seek justice for clients whose attorneys who have harmed them by negligent or unethical conduct.

Lawyers, like everyone else, make mistakes. However, because law is generally very complicated, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a lawyer’s mistake  actually damaged you. A legal malpractice action usually  has to prove that the lawyer not only made a mistake, but that the mistake contributed to your damage.

This is sometimes referred to as the “case with any case.”  If you bring a legal malpractice action, you really have to prove two different cases at the same time, one concerning the lawyer’s mistake, and the second case proving that the outcome would have been different if the mistake had not been made. Because a legal malpractice case is really two cases in one, legal malpractice is  often considered  to be one of the most difficult areas of law.

I am one of a small number of attorneys in America whose practice is solely dedicated to representing plaintiffs in legal malpractice cases. Most attorneys who handle legal malpractice cases usually also practice in other areas of law. I have been representing clients in legal malpractice cases almost exclusively since 1997.

In an upcoming blog, I will give specific examples of some of the many different ways an attorney can commit legal malpractice.

Author: Howard Altschuler

(Click here for a brief summary of my other blog posts)

(Disclaimer: Please note that nothing in this blog or website is legal advice, and this post does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal malpractice issues, fee dispute, or ethical concerns that you may have. Thanks!)

Copyright (c) 2012 By Howard Altschuler, All Rights Reserved

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2 comments on “You Do WHAT For a Living?
  1. Mohamed says:

    ((This is not legal advice))If he has no money you can get out of him, I would think finilg a malpractice suit wouldn’t get you far. Every state has a ethics board for all licensed attorneys though. You can always contact them and file a complaint. The board will investigate, and if they find wrongdoing, can punish the person and even possible disbar them.You can do a google search for your state bar website and should be able to find the information about where to make a complaint there.

  2. Howard Altschuler says:

    Hi Mohamed,

    You are correct. If an attorney has no insurance or assets, that is definitely a factor to consider in deciding how far to take a legal malpractice action. Options depend on circumstances. Most states allow the party who prevails in litigation additional time to collect. Ten years is typical, but you would definitely have to check for your location to see what the time limits are. Here is a website that lists the time to collect judgments in all states. I have not checked the list for accuracy, and sometimes the time limits change, but although the specific numbers for each state would have to be double checked, it does show that there is a huge variation of time for collecting on a judgment.

    Some state grievance boards will reimburse clients at least in part if the attorney has stolen money from a client. Two states where I practice, New York and Connecticut, collect the fee from attorneys which goes to a fund that is used to reimburse clients under certain circumstances. You correctly point out another potential option available if it is unlikely you can collect any money– filing an ethics grievance. I’ve included links to the bar websites for New York and Connecticut here (and I hope to be adding more links in the near future).

    Howard Altschuler
    (Disclaimer: Please note that nothing in this blog or website is legal advice, and this reply does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal malpractice issues, fee dispute, or ethical concerns that you may have. Thanks!)