Legal Malpractice Lawyer

When most people face legal troubles, they hire a lawyer and trust that he or she will help. Unfortunately, some realize all too quickly that their attorney has done more harm than good.  When a person suffers due to an attorney’s negligence or errors, they may be within their rights to file a lawsuit. In this type of situation, the individual would seek the help of a legal malpractice lawyer. Keep reading to learn more about the legal malpractice lawyer.

What Does a Legal Malpractice Lawyer Do?

Legal malpractice takes place when an attorney fails to provide his client with competent representation. This malpractice can occur because of the lawyer’s negligent or intentional conduct.

A lawyer can commit legal malpractice in a variety of ways. The most common include:

  • Poor communication with the client
  • Failing to meet deadlines
  • Settling a case without the client’s authorization
  • Misusing retainer money

In order to successfully bring a malpractice claim before the court, the client must prove the following elements:

  • The attorney and client shared an attorney-client relationship (proof he hired the attorney)
  • The attorney breached his duty to the client by acting negligently or with intent
  • The client would have had more success with the case had the attorney not violated his duty to the client
  • The attorney’s actions or failure to act caused injury or harm to the client’s case

Legal malpractice attorneys are professionals who advise their clients in malpractice issues, counsel them about options, and help guide them through the legal process. They gather evidence, interview expert witnesses, and file necessary paperwork with the court. The attorneys also represent their clients in courtroom proceedings to help them recover damages.

Some legal malpractice attorneys represent the lawyers in malpractice lawsuits. Their main duty is to prove to the court that the attorney did not breach his duty to the client.

Professional Requirements to Become a Legal Malpractice Lawyer

The professional requirements to become a legal malpractice lawyer involve seven years of full-time study. Students spend the first four years participating in a bachelor’s degree (B.S.) program. During these four years, students take general education and liberal arts courses along with courses related to their major.

There is no specific major required for admission to law school, but many prelaw students choose criminal justice, English, or history. Before graduation, they must take and pass the Law School Admissions Test. This exam assesses one’s understanding of the law and it is an essential part of a law school application.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, aspiring lawyers attend law school for three years. Most states require attorneys to receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. J.D. programs include various courses such as contracts, property law, and constitutional law. Students can also opt to take courses in their desired field of study.

Before a lawyer can practice law, he or she must become a member of the bar. This usually involves taking a professional responsibility exam.

While attending law school, students can complete clerkships or internships. These opportunities give students needed experience and may even improve their job prospects.

Additional Education and Experience

After earning a J.D., individuals can start earning their Master of Laws (LL.M) degree. A masters program lets students focus on more specific areas of the law. This degree gives lawyers global credibility and it can help enhance job opportunities.

Additional Licensing Requirements

Each state imposes additional licensure requirements for lawyers. Almost all require participation in Continuing Legal Education in order retain their license to practice. These courses keep attorneys up-to-date with constantly changing laws and case precedent.

Where Can You Work as a Legal Malpractice Lawyer

You have different options when it comes to where you work as a legal malpractice lawyer. If you work better alone, becoming a solo practitioner may suit you better. Having a solo practice also allows you to choose the hours you work and the rate you charge.

If working alone is not ideal, you can join a law firm. These firms generally employ multiple attorneys. Some firms specialize in one area of the law and some have a department dedicated to malpractice. Typically, when an associate joins a firm, they have the goal of making partner in the future. Many firms even force attorneys to leave the practice if they fail to make partner by a certain date.

How do Legal Malpractice Lawyers Get Paid

How legal malpractice lawyers get paid varies greatly. Commonly, malpractice attorneys work on a contingency fee basis since the client expects the court to award damages. The entire lawyer’s fee is a percentage of the amount recovered. For example, if the lawyer charges 25% and the court awards Mary $40,000 in damages, the lawyer will receive $5,000. If the court does not award damages, the lawyer does not get paid.

Some attorneys have different billing methods and charge by the hour or a flat-rate fee. In both instances, lawyers may require a retainer fee. The retainer fee is like a deposit of sorts. The client pays it up front and the lawyer uses it as he works on the case.

Legal Malpractice Lawyer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for lawyers was $119,250  ($57.33/hr) as of 2017. This accounts for lawyers in all areas of practice as the BLS does not list them separately.

Geographical location as well as amount of professional experience and expertise play a role in the exact salary earned. Generally, those with more experience in a more lucrative area of practice fall on the higher end of the pay spectrum. Attorneys that own their own practice tend to earn less than those employed by firms.

Employment Outlook for Legal Malpractice Lawyers

The BLS predicts that the employment rate for lawyers will increase around 8% by 2026. This is the average for all U.S. occupations. The legal job market remains competitive as more students graduate with law degrees than jobs become available.

Hiring a Legal Malpractice Lawyer

If your attorney’s errors or negligence negatively affected the outcome of your case, consider hiring a legal malpractice lawyer. The right one will evaluate your options and hold the other attorney accountable.

Most lawyers focus on specific practice areas and finding one with relevant experience can greatly impact your case. For instance, a criminal defense lawyer may not offer adequate representation in a bankruptcy case. Some specialize in more than one area and some practice in many areas of the law.

Legal issues bring about enough stress and hiring a lawyer you clash with may worsen the situation. The right one will have a pleasant yet professional demeanor that helps put you at ease. Since you may have to share very personal details, also choose one that you feel comfortable with. If the attorney appears uninterested in your case or unprofessional, take your business elsewhere.

Your attorney should communicate with you throughout the process and make your case a priority. He will return your calls within a reasonable time and periodically contact you with updates. He will also listen to your concerns and answer any questions you have.

How to Find the Right Legal Malpractice Lawyer

Finding the right legal malpractice lawyer may seem stressful but knowing where to look can make things easier. The most reliable way to find an attorney is through personal or professional references. Start by asking friends, family, and coworkers if they know of an attorney they would recommend. If you know a lawyer that practices in another area of the law, you can also ask them for a recommendation.

If unable to get a reference, check an online attorney database. These databases allow you to search by practice area and location. Many include information about each lawyer such as their education, background, and disciplinary records. Also, check the Bar Association website in your state for a list of licensed attorneys. If you contact the Bar Association, they will be able to refer you to an attorney that handles this type of case.

Once you find some good prospects, check and see if they have business websites. If they do, visit each site to learn more about each one. Next, call and inquire about setting up initial consultations. Many lawyers offer these free of charge. These meetings give you the opportunity to ask questions and determine if the attorney is the right choice.

Essential Information

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) is optional
Degree Field(s) Law
License/Certification Licensure in state of practice
Key Skills Critical thinking, negotiation, verbal and written communication, reasoning, ability to research, analytical
Number of Jobs (2016) 792,500
Job Outlook
8% growth rate (average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $119,250*     W
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners in the field are generally employed by large law firms

(*Source: the BLS)