Wednesday, December 26, 2012
A lawyer’s life is full of deadlines. Judges require pleadings and motions to be filed at specific times, states enact statutes of limitations to cut off long-term liability, and opposing counsel set hard deadlines for conducting negotiations. It’s a hectic life for sure, but meeting these deadlines is the only way to serve our clients with competence and respect. As the Connecticut Practice Book (a.k.a. the “Lawyer’s Bible”) notes: “Dilatory practices bring the administration of justice into disrepute.” We couldn’t agree more.
But what happens when a lazy lawyer misses a deadline?
The truth is that late filings or missed deadlines can have drastic effects on not only the cost of your legal service but potentially on the viability of your case. If a lazy lawyer waits until the last minute to file a motion with the court the quality could suffer. What if the lazy lawyer neglected to file the proper paperwork to renew your business license? What if he forgot to file a claim until after the statute of limitations had run? What if he didn’t have you in to execute your will in a timely manner? In such instances, your livelihood, your expectations, or your ability to gain adequate compensation for your injuries may be irreparably harmed.
If you suspect that you’ve been misrepresented or duped by a lazy lawyer, give us a call. We’ll look into the issue and make sure that your interests are adequately—and promptly— represented.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest concerns in the lawyer-client relationship involves fees. After all, even the most clear-cut fee agreements can be difficult to swallow—for the client as well as the lawyer. Well, as we’re fond of saying around the office, “Times have changed. We’ve changed with the times.”
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the trying economic environment of the last few years has given rise to a change in the structure of legal fee agreements. Gone are the days of the rigid hourly billing method, the modern trend points towards alternative fee arrangements that provide flexibility for both lawyer and client. In fact, the ABA has reported that in a recent survey regarding alternative fee arrangements, “Of the 218 law firm respondents, only one reported that their firm does not employ alternatives to the hourly billing rate model other than discounting.” An A For Alternatives, ABA Journal, vol. 98, Nov. 2012.
The rise of alternative fee agreements has proven to be a boon to the industry. While many legal services are still best served through hourly billing, alternative fee arrangements expand the range of services that a firm can offer. Here at Stanger & Arnold, we recognize that certain situations call for alternative solutions. Contact our office if you’d like to learn more about our alternative fee arrangements.
Monday, December 10, 2012
You may know that the American Bar Association (ABA) promulgates the Model Rules of Professional Conduct but did you know that the ABA also distributes the Model Rules for Lawyer Discipline Enforcement? Where the former are the basis for individual state-based ethical standards, the latter form the basis for the state-based procedures for investigating and prosecuting the complaints against lawyers who are alleged to have violated the ethical standards. So why are we telling you this? Because this review will likely have a significant impact on the legal malpractice landscape of the future. By all accounts, the ABA is going to set a hard line on the enforcement of these ethical standards. Furthermore, the ABA is likely to explore mechanisms to address attorney discipline in the current tech-savvy climate. We’ll be watching for further developments on this topic and so should you.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
If you’ve been the victim of legal malpractice you may want to familiarize yourself with the concept of “Quantum Meruit.” Translated from Latin, Quantum Meruit means, “As much as is deserved.” In the legal world, this is an equitable concept applied by courts to compensate a party in the absence of a legally enforceable contract. But why is it important in the context of legal malpractice? It’s important because even if you fire your lawyer because they are doing a poor job, the lawyer may be able to use the doctrine of Quantum Meruit to pursue a claim against you for services provided. This is true even if the attorney was hired on a strict contingency basis, as is generally the situation in a personal injury or tort case. If you’ve recently fired your attorney because of their negligent representation you may want to check your fee agreement for any language regarding “services rendered” or Quantum Meruit. Better yet, give us a call and we’ll do the dirty work for you.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Former Chief Justice Rehnquist once famously stated: “The constitution entitles a criminal defendant to a fair trial, not a perfect one." This statement was made in the context of the “harmless error rule,” a mechanism that prevents a party from appealing an adverse judgment on the basis of incorrect but minor (a.k.a. “harmless”) procedural decisions made by the trial judge. But does the harmless error rule apply to trial lawyers as well as trial judges?
In many ways, yes. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if an attorney errs in your legal representation, that does not necessarily equate to a good legal malpractice case. In order to win a legal malpractice suit, the plaintiff must prove that but for the error, the plaintiff would have won the case. In short, even if an attorney misses a deadline or offers bad advice, you must still prove that the attorney’s error was the cause of damages to the client. Otherwise, the error will be deemed harmless—like they say, “no harm, no foul.” If you’re attorney has made an error in your representation call us at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
If an attorney makes a mistake that hurts your case you cannot automatically sue for damages on the basis of legal malpractice. Why? Because of a doctrine known as the “Attorney Judgment Rule.”
The Attorney Judgment Rule allows that attorneys who make good faith decisions that are founded on proper legal theories may not be held liable for their decisions, even if the decisions ultimately prove to be incorrect or even damaging to their client. The reasoning behind this Rule is that an attorney must be allowed some level of freedom in structuring his client’s representation. If an attorney could be sued for malpractice every time he made a difficult or controversial decision, the courts would be overwhelmed with legal malpractice cases and the entire judicial system would grind to a halt!.
The real question is whether the lawyer was negligent. If so he or she should be liable for damages. Negligence of a professional is the basis of a malpractice claim. If your lawyer’s poor choices or advice have hurt your case, give us a call at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger or e mail us at email@example.com. We’ll get down to brass tacks to determine whether you have actionable claim.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Just because a person signed a contract or some other legal document does not necessarily mean that person may be held accountable for their actions. In certain situations, the party who signed the document may seek to have the document voided due to their lack of capacity to contract. This is often the case with minors, individuals who are mentally incapacitated (either permanently or temporarily), and even individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Individuals who lack capacity for one reason or another are sitting ducks in the legal world and many predators know it. But it’s not just your con man cousin trying to get your senile grandmother to sign over her house, many individuals who lack capacity are duped by their own lawyers who see a quick and easy way to skim a little—or, in some cases, a lot—of cash from a helpless individual. If you or your loved one has been taken advantage of by a lawyer during a period of incapacity, visit our website or give us a call at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger to get more information about your potential legal malpractice claim.
Monday, November 12, 2012
This rule aims to prevent any discrepancies or confusion that may arise when the client receives a bill for legal services. Unfortunately, not every lawyer follows the Rules. If you have received a legal bill that far exceeds your understanding of the fee agreement— or if your attorney never even bothered to provide you with a written fee agreement— you may have rights under the rules. You certainly could file a grievance. If this sounds familiar, contact our office so that we can discuss your options.
Friday, November 2, 2012
During the 2011 session, the Connecticut General Assembly clarified its stance on the Unauthorized Practice of Law by amending Connecticut General Statutes § 51-88 to increase the sanctions against parties who practice law without a valid license. While the uninitiated might think that the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” involves only charlatans or con artists who pose as lawyers, that is not the case. The real purpose behind the
amendment to the statute is to “allow for the prosecution of disbarred and suspended attorneys who practice law and to strengthen the penalty for the illegal practice of law.”
You see, licensed attorneys that have been subject to discipline—or even disbarment— are rarely forthcoming about these issues. Instead, many of them just keep trucking along and looking for new business. Oftentimes, it takes a practiced, diligent eye to identify lawyers that are engaging in the Unauthorized Practice of Law. If you suspect that a suspended or disbarred lawyer has taken your case—and your good money—
contact our office we can help if you have been damaged even if technically it is not legal malpractice.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Every year in Connecticut, more than half a million citizens are selected for jury duty. While most jurors slog through the process without much joy, jury participation is absolutely essential to our judicial system and our Democratic form of government.
The Constitution mandates that every individual who faces incarceration for more than six months has a right to a jury trial, but juries are often available in civil cases as well. (Non-jury cases are heard only before a judge and are referred to as “bench trials.”) To guarantee a fair trial for all parties, the potential jurors (a.k.a. the “jury pool”) are selected from a cross-section of the community. Prior to trial, each party has an opportunity to examine the jury pool to ensure that none of the jurors has any prior knowledge or bias
regarding the case or parties to the case. From here, the court seats a jury of no less than six and no more than twelve citizens who will hear and ultimately decide the case.
Being judged by a panel of peers is just one characteristic that sets our judicial system apart from many other judicial systems around the world. Jury service is more than just fulfilling your civic duty—it’s what America is all about. Next time you’re randomly selected for jury duty don’t forget that your service is indispensable to the judicial system and to your peers who may be involved in a trial.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
With mortgage rates sinking to near-record lows, many homeowners are thinking about refinancing their existing mortgages. Although refinancing may result in significant monthly savings, the process of refinancing is a legal transaction and sometimes errors may occur.
A diligent lawyer will help navigate the real estate transaction by preparing the necessary documents of sale, ensuring that the seller has good title to the home, and overseeing the closing process. However, legal malpractice claims are rife in the real estate world. If you’ve lost money, opportunity, or your dream house because of sloppy work by your lawyer, don’t sit idly by. Contact our office to get more information about your potential legal malpractice claim.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The legal market is rarely black and white. But nowhere is the grey more pervasive than in the case of insurance disputes.
If you are injured and your injury is covered by an insurance policy, the insurance company typically assigns you a lawyer in order to handle your claim. But does that lawyer represent you or the insurance company who is footing the bill for the legal work?
In most states, the lawyer is bound to represent you—not the insurance company. However, the lawyer may still feel pressure to meet the expectations of the insurance company in order to curry favor—and future jobs—from the deep-pocketed insurer.
If you’re concerned that your lawyer has an insurance company’s best interests in mind rather than yours contact our office to get more information about your potential legal malpractice claim.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
On September 6, the ABA released a comprehensive report detailing some interesting changes in the legal malpractice world. The report, “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011,” states that malpractice claims involving real estate transactions are now the most common type of legal malpractice claim (followed by personal injury and family law claims). Also of interest in the report is that while the number of low-dollar claims ($5,000 or less) has decreased over the period of the study, an increase in high-dollar claims has been noted. If you’ve been involved in a dispute with a former lawyer over a real estate transaction gone bad contact our office to get more information about pursuing a legal malpractice claim.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Malpractice cases are notoriously tough to litigate. That’s because the plaintiff in a malpractice case must prove a case within a case. Specifically, the plaintiff must prove not only that the lawyer’s conduct was substandard, but the plaintiff must also prove that “but for” the lawyer’s error, the plaintiff would have won the case in which the lawyer represented him.
Due to these tough odds, many plaintiffs never pursue malpractice claims against their former attorneys. Perhaps they fear that the deck is stacked against them? At Stanger & Arnold, we sometimes go for the long ball. If you’ve been the victim of substandard or negligent legal representation, give us a call. We’ll get to the root of the problem and work with you to gain compensation for your loss.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
As Mitt Romney and his staff work tirelessly to rebut the innuendo surrounding his now- infamous comments about the 47% Americans who are government “dependent,” a legal issue lurks beneath the surface: Is it legal to secretly videotape a person without his knowledge or consent?
In the majority of states—38 to be exact—the consent of only one party to a conversation is required in order to secretly record that conversation. In other words, a conversation between two or more parties may legally be recorded even if only one of the participants knows and has consented to the taping. In the other 12 states, every party must know about and consent to the recording, otherwise any publication of the recording will violate the privacy rights of the non- consenting individual(s).
The secret recording of Governor Romney’s speech was made while he was stumping in Florida, a state where it is illegal to record a conversation without the consent of all parties. So was it illegal to secretly record and then publish the speech? The answer comes down to “expectations.” A private individual in a similar situation would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy such that any recording published without his consent would be considered an actionable breach of privacy. However, a Presidential candidate speaking on a matter of public concern to a group of constituents does not have a reasonable expectation of
privacy in such a situation.
But here in Connecticut recording things such as a telephone call is only permitted if everyone recorded consents – beware and be careful.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Whether it is a retainer, a settlement award, or funds held in escrow, the most sacred charge of an attorney is to protect and hold safe his client’s money. Unfortunately, some attorneys just can’t resist the temptation.
Take, for instance, an Arkansas lawyer who was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison and ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution for stealing $9.3 million from an escrow fund containing proceeds from a class-action settlement. Better yet, look at a California lawyer who pocketed more than $40,000 from her client’s escrow account while he waited for his divorce to be finalized. Or what about an Attorney from Missouri? The show me state. Earlier this month he was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for embezzling nearly half a million dollars from his clients! If you think every lawyer is above this type of behavior, think again. If you have been victimized by this type of fraud contact our office and let us take a closer look. We can help you try and get the money back. We Can Help!
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Legal malpractice claims don’t just involve missed deadlines or negligent legal work. Malpractice suits can also arise from a firm’s failure to protect your confidential information. Hardware and software malfunctions or improperly encrypted networks can result in security breaches that may have long-lasting effects on the firm’s clients. Just think of the potential for problems. Your lawyer has access to your social security number, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and other personal information describing you and your loved ones.
If your confidential information has fallen into the wrong hands because your lawyer didn’t take the proper steps to protect this information, give us a call at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We Can Help.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Another interesting tidbit released in the American Bar Association report, “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011,” involves the types of errors committed by lawyers being accused of malpractice. The report divides the errors behind the legal malpractice claims into four groups: Substantive Errors (45.07%), Administrative Errors (30.13%), Client Relations Errors (14.60%), and Intentional Wrongs (10.19%).
The good news in this report seems to be that the so-called “Intentional Wrongs” have decreased in recent years from a high water mark of 13.53% in 2007. However, when Intentional Wrongs and Client Relationship errors are viewed in the aggregate, they account for almost 25% of all claims. This means errors that are about how the lawyer treats the client (not about the substance of the relationship) still account for nearly a full quarter of all legal malpractice claims. Seems to us that lawyers should act like professionals and act in the best interests of their clients. If you’ve been wronged by a former lawyer contact our office to get more information about your potential legal malpractice claim. Can we Help?
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Legal malpractice has been defined as the failure to “exercise that degree of skill and learning commonly applied under all the circumstances in the community by the average prudent reputable member of the profession … result(ing in) injury, loss, or damage to the (client)” (internal quotation marks omitted) Davis v. Margolis, 215 Conn. 408, 415, 576 A.2d 489 (1990).
Monday, September 10, 2012
In an article on our website we point out the problem that some lawyers are not really willing to, or maybe don’t have confidence in their ability to go the distance. Negotiations are great – but all to often we get calls from people who have settled their case on the recommendation of their lawyers and then afterwards wonder if they should have gotten a better deal. Settlement is great if both parties are disappointed but not rebellious. Also it is widely believed that if you have a lawyer that the other side knows will go the distance, yes that lawyer really will go to court to present a case to the judge or jury, then the other side is more likely to agree to a better deal for that lawyers client.
See our article: If Talk Fails
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Lawyers May be Friendly with Each Other Even Though on Opposite Sides - But it is Still Their Job to be the Bad Guy to get the Right Deal
It is a lawyer’s job to do what is best for the client within the confines of the law. We are the gladiators. If a lawyer is friendly with opposing counsel, that is a question of style and is fine within limits. There are situations where lawyers can be too friendly with the other lawyer. If you suspect that your lawyer is to friendly, always arguing the other side in conversations it could be you are wrong or it could be that the lawyer is not looking after your rights. Consider getting a second opinion from an independent lawyer. Expect your lawyer to be your Gladiator - http://www.stangerlaw.com/CM/Articles/Gladiator-BHSWinter2012Article.pdf
If you seriously think he or she has sold out or is just trying to get rid of you – get a second opinion. Can We Help? Call us at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger or e mail us at email@example.com.
If you seriously think he or she has sold out or is just trying to get rid of you – get a second opinion. Can We Help? Call us at 860-561-0651 or 888-sta-nger or e mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Suing a Lying Lawyer – One Who Intentionally or Negligently gets you to do Something by Perpetuating a Lie
Suing a lawyer is not hard – the law is clear a lawyer is responsible to his/her client if the lawyer screws up – is negligent. But what if the lawyer you want to sue was representing the other side. I wrote an article sometime ago limited to suing a lawyer for malpractice:
http://www.stangerlaw.com/CM/Articles/SuingOpLawyer-BHSWinter2012Article.pdf which essentially says you can only sue a lawyer who was not representing you if the lawyer was hired to do something for you. But there is another way – you can sue a lawyer for lying or misrepresenting things. You can sue the other party’s lawyer for telling you an outright lie that is intended to get you to do something. Negligent misrepresentation by a lawyer or intentional misrepresentation by a lawyer could be the way you get damages you entitled to under our law.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Even if the lawyer was negligent (committed malpractice) the case is not worth pursuing if the client was not hurt. Without damages caused by the negligent act of the lawyer – technically there is no viable case. See a recent article on just this situation.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
WHAT IF A LAWYER KNEW HIS CLIENT WAS GOING TO SHOOT UP A MOVIE THEATRE
There has been some speculation and facts about what James Holmes’ (Aurora Theatre) university or therapist may have known before as well as what duty they had to take action.
Clients know that what they tell their lawyer is privileged. The lawyer is not permitted to share that information with others. Even if a client gives the details of a terrible crime that the client committed the lawyer is not permitted to tell anyone. But what if the information that the client shares with the lawyer involves future conduct; the client tells the lawyer he is going to cause substantial harm to himself or to someone else.
If a lawyer reasonably believes his or her client is going to cause substantial injury to himself or to someone else, the lawyer must take reasonable steps to prevent that harm. It could be telling the police about a crime the client is going to commit. Or it could be calling the clients family or doctor if the lawyer reasonably believes that the client is likely to hurt him or herself.
The penalty for not speaking up is not criminal – it is that the lawyer could be reprimanded or disbarred by the courts in Connecticut.
Should society create a duty for a professional to come forward?
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Who has not made a mistake?
A local celebrity is said to have committed malpractice. First it sounds like, if it happened as alleged, that this was simply a mistake. Of course the injured party should be compensated for the mistake. Yet when hearing the phrase malpractice it conjures up all sorts of images.
Malpractice is simply negligence by a professional. Simple mistakes are negligence. Just like any one of us could be negligent on any given day, doing something un-reasonable while driving or not shoveling part of our sidewalk after a storm or even foolishly throwing a ball at someone who does not expect it. In each of these situations if someone is hurt they deserve to be compensated.
It sounds like the mayor did the right thing. It appears from the article that he acknowledged an error by his office. It appears this is only news because the lawyer is the mayor. People including professionals make mistakes all the time. The system is there to compensate for damages if they occur.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
There are many reasons why mediation is better than litigation for divorce. Celebrities use mediation to avoid the tabloid spectacle but even for the non-celebrity, there are usually things that no one wants to say publicly or to have get out to the extended family, kids or friends. Our lives are private – we share those private lives with our spouses. When there is a fight with those who know our secrets – who are hurt – and who will twist the truth for self-preservation or to cause harm, think about mediation as a way to contain the hurt to yourself, each other and to those around you.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Your lawyer probably has insurance for her car - the law requires it. But unfortunately the law does not require an attorney to have insurance to protect her clients against her screw ups. So if a lawyer is negligent in driving his car there has to be insurance. If a lawyer is negligent in representing a client - no insurance required. This is an article I wrote some years ago suggesting that lawyers should be required by law to have insurance. Insurance to protect clients. The lawyers dont like that, or at least most of the organized bar does not. So a compromise has been suggested which I support as a great first step. Lawyers will be obligated to disclose to the government what insurance they have and that information will be posted on the internet. An interesting first step, but in my view not enough. Why not require insurance? Why not require each lawyer to disclose in writing to his or her clients what insurance they do have or that they do not have any insurance at all? More about this in another post to come.