There is a 3 year Statute of Limitations that governs all lawsuits against lawyers/law firms. When I say ‘lawyer,’ this also includes law firms. Remember that if the lawyer you intend to sue has stayed in contact with you concerning the lawsuit for which you hired that lawyer in the 1st place (by sending letters to you, continuing to file paperwork in Court, etc.), this will extend the 3 year limitation for filing a legal malpractice lawsuit.
I emphasize with clients who have been poorly represented by their former lawyers because I review these cases all the time. If you have a good legal malpractice case, I am happy to represent you, assuming that we can prove the damages. But frequently the client is so emotionally and financially drained that they cannot push forward. It is also true that many times a client is justified in feeling that he/she has been ‘screwed over,’ but the lawyer’s actions do not amount to malpractice.
Not only do I represent clients who sue lawyers for legal malpractice, I will consider defending lawyers who are sued in ridiculous legal malpractice cases. Once you read the summary below of the ridiculous lawsuit that my attorney friend was involved in, you can see that people regularly abuse the legal system by suing their former lawyers in frivolous lawsuits that have no chance of winning.
Once you read this case summary, you can easily see why the public feels so much hatred/disdain towards the legal system. My client Katherine hired a fairly prestigious law firm (“D&A) to represent her in her divorce case. After she paid D&A to commence the divorce lawsuit on her behalf, D&A requested a Preliminary Conference to force her husband to appear in Court, thereby beginning the ‘contested divorce’ process. The parties’ law firms then engaged in the process of discovery, which culminated in the taking of the parties’ depositions. If you have ever gone through a deposition (especially for a divorce case), I’m sure you’ll agree that it is quite an unpleasant experience.
In any civil lawsuit in NY, once the lawyers agree that the discovery process is done, the judge normally gives the plaintiff’s lawyer a 1 page ‘Certification Order’ compelling the plaintiff’s lawyer to file a simple document called a ‘Note of Issue’ (called a ‘Notice of Trial’ in lower Courts). This document is extremely easy to file (a $30 fee must be paid also) and normally must be filed within 90 days after the judge issues the ‘Certification Order.’
Anyone who has undergone a contested divorce will tell you that the legal process takes about 1.5 years (if not longer) to finish the process of discovery. In the above case, after about 2 years of going to Court (and taking time off from work for court dates), sitting through a deposition, filing Motions, spending thousands on attorney fees, her law firm failed to file the very simple Note of Issue, thereby forcing the judge to dismiss the entire divorce case with prejudice. In other words, the plaintiff had to file the entire divorce case all over again.
But what is utterly disgraceful is that her law firm never even told her that the case had been dismissed! After the Note of Issue is filed, there is a waiting period until the parties are notified of the trial date. So while Katherine thought that she was waiting for a trial date, the truth was that her case had been dismissed. How terrible.
Imagine the anger, frustration, and helplessness that my client must have felt when she learned this! But here is the worst part: my client’s former law firm did not even tell her that the divorce case had been dismissed and that she would have to start all over. She only found out the terrible news when she hired a new law firm and the new law firm told her about the case’s dismissal.
My client had paid her former law firm a total of $10,500.00. We settled the case for $7,950.00, which I feel is an excellent settlement. I am happy to say that my client was very happy with my services.
The thing that many law firms do to protect themselves, especially in the area of divorce/matrimonial law and Family Court practice, is “pad” their bill and tell their clients, especially former clients, that they owe more money than what is shown on the law firm’s invoice. This is exactly what happened to my client in the case described above. But when we settled this lawsuit, we were able to do away with the so-called “unpaid balance.”
The truth is that most legal malpractice lawsuits are not as “black and white” and “cut and dry” as this case. But if you are dissatisfied with your former law firm, I will do my best to obtain a partial or full refund of the monies that you have paid.
Keep in mind that very few lawyers/law firms work in the area of legal malpractice.
In 2010, a very good friend of mine – attorney Eleanor R. – was sued for legal malpractice for a closing she handled in 1996-97. She asked me to represent her and of course, I was happy to do so. Eleanor R. explained the transaction from 1996-97 to me and I concluded that she did not commit any legal malpractice whatsoever, even though this lawsuit was filed 10-11 years after the 3 yr Statute of Limitations expired. The only reason why Eleanor was even sued is because since this plaintiff decided to sue his neighbors (for a completely different reason, nothing having to do with legal malpractice), his lawyer decided to throw Eleanor R. in ‘just for the hell of it.’
Since legal malpractice cases are limited by a 3 year St. of Limitations, I view the filing of this case as an abuse of our legal system. Lawsuits like this provide a partial explanation as to why our legal system is overburdened and stretched thin.
I filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit against Eleanor R. and I fully expect the Judge to grant our request. If you are being sued in a legal malpractice case, I will be happy to represent you.