How do I know if I have a “good” legal malpractice case?

“Do I have a good legal malpractice case?” I am often asked that question by potential clients in our first conversation.

And while that question is perfectly reasonable, unfortunately, the answer is often more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Part of the reason for that is the inherent complexity of the litigation process. A moderately complicated legal malpractice case could take three or more years to get to trial. Document intensive cases, or cases where there are many witnesses, could take even longer. Win or lose at trial, there still could be an appeal. Therefore, even if you have an excellent case, one of the things you need to decide early on is whether the wait will be worth it to you.

As to the factors that make up a good case, that is very specific to the factual circumstances of your situation, the people involved, and the relevant legal issues. However, there is one general rule of thumb that applies to most cases: the more the facts are documented, the better it will be for you (assuming the facts are favorable to you). That is because the outcome will be less dependent on the credibility of witnesses.  No matter what resources your attorney’s attorney may have, a well-documented case more than evens the playing field.

Still, it is often difficult to know for sure how strong a case a client has until the case has commenced. Many times a client does not have all the documents that were produced by the law firm being sued. Therefore the attorney handling the legal malpractice case won’t always have access to all the documentary evidence at the beginning of the case. Hopefully material uncovered in discovery will support the client.

Although a book could be written about this topic, one important thing to keep in mind is that, depending on how things go in discovery, however “good” your case was at the beginning of the litigation, this can change significantly during the course of litigation, for the better or for the worse. It is important that your attorney keep you informed of developments as they occur, and provide you with copies of everything relevant to your case, so you can stay informed about where things stand and adjust your expectations based on the reality of your case.

(Click here for a brief summary of my other blog posts on various legal malpractice related issues)

(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) 2013 by Howard Altschuler, All Rights Reserved