The Entrekin Law Firm obtained a very large settlement for a corporation whose attorney pretended he was an expert in employment law. He told the corporation they did not have to abide by the termination provisions of an executive officer’s contract, because Arizona was a “right to work” state. This was inaccurate: whether or not Arizona is a “right to work” state, corporations need to honor their contracts.
The attorney then charged the corporation $105,000 to defend the subsequent breach of contract lawsuit by the executive, which the corporation lost. The corporation had to pay the executive a very large sum of money, which they would not have had to pay if the termination had been done according to the contract. Their attorney then sued them for his final $20,000 in attorneys fees. The corporation contacted us and we countersued the attorney for legal malpractice. After a very contentious litigation lasting a year and a half, the corporation did not have to pay the attorney any additional attorneys fees and the attorney paid the corporation a large sum, equal to what they had lost because of the attorney’s errors.
As the market for attorneys becomes more glutted, more and more attorneys attempt to take on matters outside their expertise and in the process, give erroneous advice. Young attorneys in particular are prone to represent themselves as having expertise they lack, in order to build a practice in a competitive market.
In another case which came to The Entrekin Law Firm, the attorney erroneously advised the client that the deeds to land given to her by her husband had no significance, because they were not recorded with the county recorder. This advice directly contradicts an Arizona statute and is not correct. Because she followed this advice, the client lost several parcels of property worth a lot of money. Had the attorney been aware of the statute and given her correct advice, she would have avoided a loss totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Attorneys are not required to be the preeminent expert in their area of practice, but they are required to have the knowledge that a reasonable and prudent attorney, who holds themselves out as skilled and experienced in that particular area of law, would have. If they fail to meet this standard by giving erroneous advice and that erroneous advice causes substantial damages that would not have occurred but for the erroneous advice, there are strong grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit.