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Newark Litigation and Appeals Law Blog

Compliance becomes murky with new sick leave order

On Labor Day, the White House passed an executive order that mandates sick leave for employees of federal contractors. This order, however, has some features that are causing concern for employment lawyers, who are concerned about employment contract enforcement.

The new order extends paid sick leave to about 300,000 employees who are not currently eligible for these benefits, and will increase available sick leave for many more. It also allows workers to use this leave not only to care for themselves, but for family members who are ill and allows for its use for domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault situations. 

How do you prove a legal malpractice case?

In previous posts we have covered many examples of alleged an actual instances of attorney malpractice in New Jersey. Sometimes the underlying causes of the malpractice may seem obvious; at other times, it may be harder to discern. This post addresses the standard by which courts decide whether an attorney's behavior meets the threshold to qualify as legal malpractice.

In a key sense, proving legal malpractice is similar to proving a case of negligence: both causes of action require the plaintiff to show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and failed to uphold that duty. As you may suspect, however, a legal malpractice action involves more than a simple showing of negligence.

Is your attorney ripping you off?

When you hire an attorney in New Jersey, you likely expect them to “work for their money.” After all, you are likely paying thousands of dollars for their advice, expertise and representation. You want to ensure they are using the hours they are charging you for effectively in an effort to win the case for you. Of course, this is not always easy to gauge.

If you feel your attorney is slacking, you have a few options. One of the most important things you can do is have another lawyer also examine your case and what your current attorney has done thus far. You can request your case file from your attorney and present it to a third party, who can determine whether you are getting your money’s worth or not. Communicate with your current attorney and relay your concerns so they know you are aware of what’s going on.

What you should know about legal malpractice

When you experience a traumatic event, such as a serious work injury or divorce, you go to an attorney with all of your faith and trust. Like doctors, attorneys are supposed to be the right hand person of their clients and have their best interest at heart, working hard to get them the best results after their case has settled. You expect your lawyer to stick to his or her own professional standards. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and legal malpractice in New Jersey is more common than you think.

Your lawyer is required to act with competence and with integrity. Just like medical malpractice, legal malpractice is an act, which your attorney will be responsible for, and he or she could face tremendous repercussions for their actions. If you or someone that you know have been the victims of legal malpractice do not hesitate to speak with a new legal representative, speaking to an experienced attorney could be very beneficial to your case.

When settling a case constitutes legal malpractice

All attorneys in the state of New Jersey must follow the Rules of Professional Conduct. Failure to do so can be grounds for legal malpractice. One common basis for a legal malpractice claim is that an attorney accepted a settlement offer without the client’s consent.

Under the New Jersey Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4, an attorney must provide you with enough information to allow you to make an informed decision about whether to accept a settlement offer. This is known as informed consent. Informed consent means that you understand all of the circumstances and facts surrounding a settlement, as well as all of the terms of the settlement, before you sign the dotted line.  

New Jersey attorney sanctioned for frivolous lawsuit

On many occasions when we hear of attorneys running into trouble with the courts, the heart of the matter has to do with a problem between the attorney and the client, such as a dispute involving client funds or the failure to meet a court-established deadline to the client's detriment. But sometimes an attorney can get too emotionally close to the subject matter of a case, and this can cloud his or her judgment. When this happens, it is possible for such an attorney to cross the line when it comes to professional ethics.

In this regard, let's consider the recent example of a New Jersey lawyer -- who is also licensed to practice law in Florida -- who was representing clients in Florida litigation but who evidently began to take the client's dispute to the level where he filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against the other side's counsel, alleging that the other attorney in Florida had engaged in a fraudulent transaction

Attorney ethics violations can become complex to resolve

All practicing attorneys in New Jersey are subject to the state's Rules of Professional Conduct, which impose high standards of behavior when it comes to their behavior toward the courts, other attorneys and clients. Sometimes these rules are easy to understand and straightforward to apply, such as the fiduciary duty to clients and the responsibility not to misuse client funds. On other occasions, though, application of the rules can involve complicated fact patterns that trigger multiple potential violations of those rules.

Applying the RPC can be difficult if you do not know what they are and how an attorney may have violated them; you may believe that your attorney has committed legal malpractice but be unaware of how it has happened or what rules govern the possible violation. This is why, when you are convinced that your attorney has failed to meet his or her professional obligations toward you or your legal matter, you should consult with a law firm that practices in legal malpractice law and knows what to look for in an attorney's conduct that can serve as grounds for an ethics complaint, a legal malpractice complaint, or both.

What are the main reasons for legal malpractice lawsuits?

In several posts on our blog we have covered claims of legal malpractice against New Jersey attorneys and law firms. Most of the time, such claims -- and the lawsuits that they can lead to -- are based on a well-recognized number of underlying issues between attorney and client. Some of these include:

Missing deadlines. The civil and criminal legal systems are deadline-driven, beginning with the statute of limitations within which to file a lawsuit through the time permitted to effect service of process and to respond to legal complaints and motions. Failing to meet a legal deadline can result in more than embarrassment; it can be fatal to a plaintiff's claim, or can lead to a default judgment against a defendant.

What kind of relationship is created between client and attorney?

When you hire a professional, you create a business relationship. This is true whether you are working with a plumber, hiring someone to mow your lawn, or retaining an attorney. Yet you do not hear of court cases in which a dissatisfied customer sues a plumber for malpractice, but you likely have heard of such cases involving lawyers. 

So what makes the attorney-client relationship different from an ordinary business relationship?

Turning accusations into compensation for legal malpractice

The recently filed lawsuit by a high profile reality television personality against her former attorney for legal malpractice has generated a great deal of finger pointing as both sides toss accusations at each other. Among the accusations made by the client is that errors made by her attorney led to bankruptcy fraud charges against her.

For his part, the attorney has accused his former client of falsifying tax returns and other documents long before he represented her. He also claims that his representation of her had nothing to do with her eventual incarceration.

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