When is legal malpractice worth pursuing?

If you recently lost a case, you may be angry and upset. It’s common for anyone who goes through the long legal process to be disappointed and hurt when it didn’t go their way.

You may blame your attorney for your failure to win, as most clients do. But that alone is not enough to prove malpractice. It takes a lot to show that you were indeed the victim of legal malpractice. An attorney skilled in the area is essential to understanding just where you stand after that bitter loss.

A high standard

The two key components of legal malpractice set a very high bar to reach. In order to prove a case against your previous attorney you have to show that:

  • They made a mistake, either procedural or ethical
  • This mistake cost you the case.

The last part is the most difficult. In essence, you could wind up trying your case all over again in the process of filing a legal malpractice suit. It is what makes the process “a case within a case” which has to be managed very carefully.

What mistakes count?

Mistakes are made all the time in the course of any professional career. Certain mistakes by an attorney, however, can be construed as potential malpractice. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Not filing on time, especially if a statute of limitations was missed
  • Financial mis-management or breach of fiduciary duty
  • Failure to report a conflict of interest

You can see how these are the kind of mistakes that may have made all the difference between a case won and a case lost. They are egregious and have clear consequences. This is what is necessary to meet the high standard which separates legal malpractice from simply not winning a case.


If you have a complaint against an attorney who has represented you, it may be headed for arbitration. Most contracts with attorneys have a clause which requires all disputes to be settled with arbitration. This is generally a cost-effective and simple way to handle disputes.

If you have been through arbitration and are still not satisfied, however, a lawsuit may be a good option. Time is of the essence in this case because many arbitration decisions become legal binding after 30 days. It’s important to act quickly and understand your rights.

Experience counts

Not every lost case is an example of an incompetent lawyer. Any potential case should be reviewed in consultation with an experienced legal malpractice attorney who understands the complexities of these cases. If you think you may have such a case, it’s important to reach out immediately in case there is a potential deadline that you may be up against.