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Are lawyers accountable for the actions of nonlawyers?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2020 | Legal Malpractice

You’ve probably encountered people in the legal profession who act like they know everything there is to know. However, despite how attorneys with big egos portray themselves, most recognize that they have significant gaps in their knowledge. This is why lawyers often rely on experts to provide evidence and testimony in areas outside the law. The hope is that by doing so, you will be able to strengthen your case.

Questions of accountability can arise when a nonlawyer is a crucial part of a case. What happens if their testimony winds up damaging your claim? Does your lawyer have any responsibility, or does all of the blame lie with the nonlawyer?

Ethical standards must be adhered to

According to Rule 5.3 of The State Bar of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is required to hold nonlawyers to the ethical standards demanded by the legal profession. In short, and in general, this means that your lawyer can be held accountable for the actions of a nonlawyer.

It’s important to keep in mind that an attorney is not on the hook for every potentially harmful action taken by a nonlawyer. Potential malpractice claims only come about when the nonlawyer’s actions demonstrably harmed your case. Your lawyer must have also ordered or consented to the harmful, unethical conduct. If an attorney is aware of unethical conduct on the part of the nonlawyer and takes no steps to stop the conduct, it may be enough to state a claim for malpractice.

These types of cases can be complicated

Legal malpractice cases are rarely simple. Poor representation or mistakes may not be enough to prevail on your claim. Proving that the malpractice harmed your case is essential. Discussing your options with a skilled legal professional can help you decide how best to proceed.