My attorney mishandled funds that I entrusted to him. Is this legal malpractice?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Every attorney owes their clients a fiduciary duty, which is considered a very high duty under the law. If a lawyer in any way breaches this legal duty, he can be subject to professional discipline. A client may also be able to file a civil suit for professional malpractice on the basis of his behavior.

Mishandling funds is a clear breach of the duty. Such an action is forbidden by the Rules of Professional Responsibility that govern lawyers. An attorney can be responsible for any monetary damages incurred as a result of his carelessness or intentional misuse of funds. 

Legal malpractice is a civil suit governed under tort law. There are several required elements to of a case that a client will need to prove in order to hold a lawyer liable for professional malpractice:

  • You need to prove there was a breach of duty. Any sort of mishandling of funds should easily fall within this category. Simply provide evidence of the misuse, such as details about how he spent the money, mingled it with his own, was unreasonably careless with it, or took any actions that were not in your best interest.
  • You will also need to prove the type and extent of damages you suffered. For example, if your lawyer took $10,000 from you, you suffered $10,000 in damages. If your lawyer was unreasonably careless and invested your $100,000 trust assets in a speculative pyramid scheme and you lost it all, then your damages are $100,000. Provide any details about the money you lost, so the court will know just how much to award you in compensation.

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