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What are my options after experiencing legal malpractice?

Published on Jun 4, 2018 at 2:40 pm in Legal Malpractice.

Whether faced with the wrongdoing of another, a criminal charge or a serious injury, heading to court is a nerve-wracking experience. Most people in Maryland do not take on this experience alone. Obtaining the guidance of an experienced lawyer is often your best option for achieving the best possible outcome for your unique situation, but what if someone drops the ball? In the face of legal malpractice, you might feel understandably lost.

Legal malpractice: Did your attorney do something improper?

Published on Mar 23, 2018 at 1:24 pm in Legal Malpractice.

If you are like most people here in Maryland and elsewhere, you probably contact an attorney because you have a problem that requires his or her experience. You trust that your best interests remain a priority and your case will be resolved in the best manner possible. Unfortunately, like those in other professions, mistakes can happen. The question is whether that mistake constituted legal malpractice and caused you economic harm.

The threshold for proving that malpractice occurred is high. You will need to show that your attorney was incompetent or otherwise acted negligently or fraudulently. However, that is not enough. You must also show that you suffered financial harm as a direct result.

Did attorney commit legal malpractice in personal injury claim?

Published on Oct 11, 2017 at 10:40 pm in Legal Malpractice.

When hiring an attorney for a personal injury claim, a Maryland resident trusts that the one chosen will diligently pursue a recovery from any and all potential defendants who may bear some responsibility for the injuries suffered. Failing to do so could close off a potential source of restitution that could help with the financial losses sustained. An individual in a neighboring state says that is exactly what happened, and he now alleges legal malpractice kept him from receiving approximately $1.8 million.

The claim arose out of an accident that occurred in 2011. The man in question was a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle. The accident caused the man numerous injuries to his entire body, including his pelvic region, spine and legs. He also suffered injuries to his shoulder and claims he became disfigured. Certain conditions he had prior to the incident were also exacerbated by it.

Do you suspect your attorney is guilty of legal malpractice?

Published on Aug 22, 2017 at 10:18 pm in Legal Malpractice.

Attorneys here in Maryland and elsewhere must meet certain professional and ethical standards. Most diligently follow the Rules of Professional Conduct put forth by the American Bar Association. However, through mistake or intention, some attorneys violate these rules and their clients suffer for it. If you suspect that your attorney somehow committed legal malpractice, it may help to know more about the most common ways this may occur before taking any further steps.

Did your lawyer commit a breach of fiduciary duty?

Published on Jul 17, 2017 at 10:10 pm in Legal Malpractice.

When you engage the services of any attorney, he or she is required — from a moral as well as a legal standpoint — to act in your best interests. This is known as a fiduciary duty.

If you come to believe that your lawyer committed a breach of fiduciary duty, this might constitute professional malpractice. A reasonable next step would be for you to discuss your misgivings with a different attorney who is experienced in handling legal malpractice cases.

What is a breach of fiduciary duty?

A malpractice lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty must establish (a) a specific duty that was owed, (b) a failure to live up to that obligation, and (c) tangible damages that were suffered as a result. If an attorney was rude or deceitful, but won your case, it would not be compensable. But if the attorney failed to pursue your case because of an undisclosed conflict of interest, you might have grounds for monetary damages.

What do the rules of professional conduct have to say about competence? – II

Published on Jun 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm in Legal Malpractice.

Back in May, our blog spent some time discussing how the very first decree in the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct dictates that all attorneys must provide clients with competent representation, meaning services demonstrating a reasonably necessary degree of “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation.”

We also discussed how even though this may seem simple enough, it’s a far more complex matter, with multiple factors needing to be accounted for when considering an individual attorney’s legal knowledge and skill. We’ll continue this important discussion in today’s post.

What do the rules of professional conduct have to say about competence?

Published on May 12, 2017 at 9:49 pm in Legal Malpractice.

When a person makes the decision to retain the services of an attorney to handle a particular issue — from an estate plan or employment agreement to a divorce or a DWI — they understandably assume — and rightly expect — a certain level of competence.

Indeed, the very first decree in the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct addresses this very issue, dictating that an attorney must provide “competent representation” to a client. Indeed, the rule goes on to declare that the foundation of such representation is “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary.”

Do you believe that your attorney committed legal malpractice?

Published on Nov 29, 2016 at 8:20 pm in Legal Malpractice.

When you hire a Maryland lawyer to represent you, you expect that he or she will be competent and have your best interests in mind. Unfortunately, not all attorneys live up to their responsibilities. If the evidence supports it, a legal malpractice claim could be filed in order to seek restitution for the damages caused by the attorney.

Mistakes are possible in every area of law. In a bankruptcy, your attorney could fail to include debts that could have otherwise been discharged. In a medical malpractice, personal injury or wrongful death claim, an attorney might put the case aside for too long, and the statute of limitations could expire. Failing to file an appeal could also be considered legal malpractice.

Understanding your options when faced with attorney misconduct

Published on Sep 23, 2016 at 6:04 pm in Legal Malpractice.

There are certain professions that we, as a society, hold in high regard owing to the education and training required, and the complexity of the work performed. While physicians certainly fall into this category, so do attorneys, whom we rely on to handle an array of matters from car accidents and divorces to estate planning and criminal charges, to name only a few.

It naturally follows that with this high regard comes high expectations. Indeed, we expect attorneys to handle our legal issue with the necessary diligence and to provide zealous advocacy, no matter the circumstances.

Prominent Baltimore Attorney Disbarred Over $1,000 Check

Published on Jun 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm in Legal Malpractice.

Last week, the Court of Appeals of Maryland disbarred Michael U. Gisriel, a well known real estate lawyer who hosted a talk show, and was a past member of the Maryland House of Delegates. This was considered “breaking news” by the Daily Record, Maryland’s legal newspaper. The facts of the case are interesting for several reasons and can be read at the Maryland Judiciary website.

Mr. Gisriel has been retained by clients to resolve a real estate dispute. During the course of the representation, he filed court papers that were later deemed frivolous and the trial court imposed sanctions upon Mr. Gisreal and his client of more than $3,000, which Mr. Gisriel paid to opposing counsel. He was later discharged by the clients, who continued part of their case without an attorney. They ultimately resolved their case at a mediation session where it was agreed they would be paid certain monies being held in escrow by the court.

A $1,000 check was sent by the court trustee to Mr. Gisriel who, without authority, signed the clients’ names to the check and deposited it into his general account. He assumed the payment was in partial reimbursement of the fees he paid on his own behalf and on behalf of the clients as sanctions to opposing counsel. The clients were waiting for their $1,000. When they learned that Mr. Gisriel had signed their names and cashed the check, they reported him to the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission who sought and obtained disbarment.

Mr. Gisriel had claimed that he honestly believed the check was his to cash and that he didn’t give it more than “five seconds” of thought between receiving the check and endorsing it. The Court found he intentionally misappropriated the funds and that his lack of thought was indicative of deceit and not helpful to his defense.

This case is very unfortunate, Many, including two of the seven judges on the Court of Appeals (Bell and Eldrige (retired), believed the decision was too harsh. The two judges, in a dissenting opinion, indicated they would have indefinitely suspended and not disbarred Gisriel based on his good standing and lack of discipinary problems during his more than 30 years in practice. What is also interesting is that the clients who reported Mr. Gisriel wished to withdraw their grievance and signed an affidavit that the matter had been resolved to their satisfaction and that they didn’t want to bring harm to Mr. Gisriel’s legal career. Those pleas obviously fell upon deaf ears at the Grievance Commission who has the right to do what it wishes notwithstanding what the reporting party wishes.

The bottom line is that an attorney may never sign a client’s name to a check or legal document without their express authority. That is basic law with a little common sense mixed in. This action was viewed as theft, as it very well might have been, and is just another example of how some will risk their careers over very small amounts of money.

At Belsky, Weinberg and Horowitz, we request that clients endorse a limited power of attorney whenever there is a need to sign on behalf of clients. There are more extensive powers of attorneys that can be used in other circumstances. We would be happy to discuss free-of-charge our process for preparing powers of attorney.

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