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Do an attorney’s ethical violations lead to legal malpractice?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2021 | Legal Malpractice

An attorney’s peers, the state bar association, and their clients all hold these legal professionals to high standards. A failure to meet these standards can, in some situations, lead to allegations of legal malpractice. This basically means that the attorney’s failure was so egregious it had a negative impact on the outcome of their client’s case.

There are various errors that can lead to allegations of malpractice. In some cases, a failure to act in an ethical manner can qualify.

A note of caution

The state where the attorney practices matters. This post will provide some general information and some that focuses specifically on California state law and the California Rule of Professional Conduct (CRPC).

Examples of ethical violations

Two of the most common ethical violations that can rise to legal malpractice claims include:

  • Lack of Client Communication. It makes sense that an attorney has an ethical duty to communicate certain things that could impact a client’s case with their client. The CRPC specifically requires attorneys to keep their clients “reasonably informed” of developments in their case. This is one of the more frequently sited sources of malpractice claims connected to an ethical violation.
  • Conflict of interest. The rules also require attorneys to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. This could happen if representing multiple family members in wrongful death case, family law matter or during an estate planning dispute. This type of ethical issue can prove a successful legal malpractice case if the client can prove they would have obtained a better result but for the attorney’s conflict of interest.

It is important to point out that not every ethics violation rises to the level of a legal malpractice claim. Clients can report concerning behavior to the California State Bar which may then investigate the matter. If, however, the error had a negative impact on the outcome of the case it is wise to discuss the situation with a legal professional who is experienced in this niche area of the law.

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