There are many ways an attorney can breach the trust of his or her clients. With legal malpractice being a particularly complex area of law, requiring skilled and knowledgeable representation, it can be easy for a lawyer to even unintentionally commit malpractice. Regardless of intent, clients should be able to rely on their lawyers for sound counsel and ethical representation, especially in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, family law and business litigation. A new California law went into effect after the first of the year, which addresses mediation agreements and can protect clients from legal malpractice, as well as assist lawyers in avoiding discipline by clarifying the correct steps.
According to the National Law Review, California lawyers are now required to have their clients read and sign a printed disclosure on mediation confidentiality restrictions before clients agree to mediate a legal case. Attorneys must give clients a reasonable amount of time to read and agree to the disclosure and must ensure clients understand and sign the acknowledgement before proceeding with mediation.
Lawmakers had been concerned many clients failed to understand the potential restrictions of mediating a case, rather than litigating, and that by not fully understanding their options, clients could be subject to legal malpractice. It is interesting to note that the new law seeks to prevent legal malpractice, yet attorneys can be considered in violation of malpractice laws if they do not comply with the new disclosure requirement.
Therefore, it is important for California lawyers to be knowledgeable of changes to the law that affect their dealing with clients. Clients may protect themselves by being educated and informed, but it is ultimately an attorney’s responsibility to practice law accurately and ethically.