People in California rely on attorneys to follow certain standards of care when representing them. Attorneys who fall short of the standards of care established for their practice areas might commit professional malpractice. To prove malpractice, a plaintiff needs evidence that the attorney had a duty to meet the standard of care on behalf of a client but failed to deliver services according to these standards. The plaintiff must then show that damages resulted from these specific professional failings. A survey of legal malpractice claims by a malpractice insurance broker showed that conflicts of interest were the leading source of malpractice complaints.

Merging legal firms and lateral hires within the profession created almost 50% of the claims processed by insurers in 2017. The insurers found that insufficient training about conflict of interest issues among attorneys in these situations typically caused the problem. Law firms also often failed to conduct thorough investigations into the potential for conflicts of interest.

In addition to identifying sources of malpractice claims, the survey determined which legal practice areas experienced the most claims. The top four practice areas are business transactions, corporate and securities, real estate and trusts and estates. Problems that frequently caused problems in these areas included breach of fiduciary duty, scrivener errors in contracts and mismanagement of escrow accounts.

Initiating a legal malpractice claim requires consulting an attorney independent of the situation. A case evaluation might help a person determine if evidence is sufficient to launch litigation. An attorney might investigate any applicable statutes of limitations and aid a client in meeting necessary deadlines and calculating the extent of damages. To develop a case, an attorney might strive to create a strategy that anticipates how the opposing party might attempt to deflect liability.