Attorney Liability for Another Attorney’s Malpractice

An attorney may be held liable for committing legal malpractice while representing a client. Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to use such skill, prudence, and diligence as lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity possess and exercise. In addition, other parties may be held liable for that attorney’s misbehavior.

Liability of a Partnership

Under the Uniform Partnership Act, a partnership is liable for loss caused by a partner who acts in the ordinary course of the partnership’s business or with the authority of the copartners. Thus, copartners of an attorney who commits malpractice while handling a client’s funds may be liable for that attorney’s malpractice. However, if the attorney acts for his own benefit and interest in a matter that is beyond the scope of employment, the partnership will not be liable for the attorney’s conduct. For example, a partnership may not be liable for an attorney’s intentional and malicious torts.

Liability of Associates

In some cases, especially complex ones, an attorney may hire other attorneys to assist him in rendering legal services. If the initial attorney commits legal malpractice, the client may recover against him in addition to the attorneys who are associated with the case. Liability may be based on the associates coming together with the initial attorney to form a type of joint venture.

Local counsel retained by an out-of-state lead attorney to assist with litigation may be held liable for malpractice the lead attorney commits against a client. However, local counsel’s duty to the client is usually limited to exercising reasonable care in the work assigned by the lead attorney and does not extend to reviewing all matters handled by the lead attorney.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.