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Chicago Legal Malpractice Laws

The relationship between a client and lawyer needs high degree of trust and reliability. Legal malpractice can happen when a lawyer’s negligent action, inaction or advice causes damages to the client.

To prove a claim of legal malpractice, the former client must plead and prove the points mentioned below:

•             A relationship existed between the client and the lawyer

•             The lawyer breached the duty of care to the client

•             The lawyer’s breach is the reason of the client’s injury

•             The client suffered a financial loss due to the wrongful conduct of the lawyer

A lawyer may be responsible for the following written things:

•             Failing to comply with case filing deadlines

•             Mishandling the funds of the client

•             Doing unfair dealing

•             Failing to follow instructions given by the client

•             Breaching the duties of loyalty or confidentiality

•             Failing to charge a client in accordance with the fee agreement or fraud

Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct deal with the conduct and working of lawyers and need the lawyers to be competent, to make certain disclosures involving legal fees to clients, to keep client confidences secret and to tell the truth to the 3rd parties and to the courts. Violations of these rules can be counted in legal malpractice.

In 1870, the Illinois Supreme Court stated the lawyer’s duty to their client. This duty is explained as follows: “Where a person adopts the profession of the law, if he assumes to exercise the duties in behalf of another, for hire and reward, he must be held to employ in his undertaking, a reasonable degree of care and skill. If injury results to the client, for the want of such a degree of reasonable care and skill, he must respond in damages, to the extent of the injury sustained. This rule commends itself to our sense of right, as a wholesome and salutary one, and one that is necessary to the protection of that large class of persons who must of necessity submit their interests to the keeping of persons who hold themselves out to the public as learned and skilled in the law”. Stevens v. Walker, 55 Ill. 151 (1870)

The most challenging part of legal malpractice actions is proving that the lawyer’s conduct is the reason of client’s financial injury.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, “the theory underlying a cause of action for legal malpractice is that the plaintiff client would have been compensated for an injury caused by a third party, absent negligence on the part of the client’s attorney”. Tri-G v. Burke, Bosselman & Weaver, 856 N.E.2d 389, 222 Ill. 2d 218 (2006)

The mistakes that can constitute malpractice are:

•             Failing to get clear title to the client’s property

•             Failing to file an estate tax return in a given period of time

•             Failing to open an estate in a given period of time

•             Failing to investigate factual statements made by a client or a third party

If an individual feels that he/she suffered a loss due to a former lawyer’s negligent or wrongful conduct then he/she should consult a professional law firm.


Attorney Court Koehler

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