Attorneys Can Face Both Professional Misconduct and Malpractice Lawsuits

An attorney should always act in the best interests of the client. Truly, lawyers are "counselors of law" and should conduct themselves accordingly. This means, for example, that attorneys should not have conflicts of interest in representing their clients and should not fraudulently charge their clients.

State bar associations and state supreme courts monitor the ethical behavior of attorneys licensed in their state. Many of the rules governing lawyers are similar to the American Bar Associations' Rules of Professional Conduct, which models rules regarding anything from the responsibilities of a supervisory lawyer to rules maintaining the integrity of the profession. When lawyers do not conduct themselves according to their state's rules of professional conduct, they are subject to discipline for professional misconduct. This can include a public reprimand, suspension from practicing law, and — for the worst offenses — disbarment, meaning the attorney is forbidden from ever practicing law or taking the state bar exam in that state.

A client who feels that an attorney breached an ethical duty can file a complaint with the relevant state authority. In Ohio, for example, a client can file a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Malpractice Lawsuits

When a lawyer is disciplined for professional malpractice, the client may also have a case against that attorney for legal malpractice, although not in every situation. For example, if the attorney breached his or her fiduciary duty to the client, that attorney may be subject to both professional reprimand and a lawsuit for legal malpractice.

Keep in mind that a malpractice lawsuit is for attorney misconduct, unethical behavior and incompetence. A malpractice lawsuit is not for people who are simply unhappy with the result of their case. In those circumstances, an appeal of the case is more appropriate. However, if the lawyer actually does commit malpractice, the wronged client can recover attorneys' fees and damages that resulted from the malpractice.

If you believe you have suffered damages due to legal malpractice, you may have legal remedies. Contact an attorney experienced with legal malpractice claims to explore your options and defend your rights.