As one of the leading legal-malpractice firms in Texas, we get telephone calls, emails, and website inquiries almost every day from people wanting to sue Texas lawyers. Unfortunately, most people do not understand the circumstances that must exist to sue a lawyer successfully in Texas. This brief post explains the general requirements.
A legal-malpractice claim in Texas requires four elements: (1) a duty by the attorney to the plaintiff, (2) the attorney’s breach of that duty, (3) proximate cause, and (4) damages.
The first element, duty, usually exists because of a formal attorney-client relationship. Conversely, if the attorney did not represent you but represented someone else in the transaction or litigation, the attorney probably did not owe you any duty.
The second element is the breach of the standard of care. Losing your case does not mean the lawyer breached the standard of care. Likewise, even a mistake by the lawyer may not have breached the standard of care. The law recognizes that lawyers are neither perfect nor guarantors of their clients’ success. Instead, the law requires only that a lawyer act as a reasonably prudent lawyer would have acted under the same or similar circumstances. But a lawyer who fails to act as a reasonably prudent lawyer would have breached the standard of care.
The third element is that whatever mistake the lawyer made in violation of the standard of care must have been the proximate cause of whatever damage the client sustained. If the lawyer had acted properly, the damage would not have occurred.
A further note about proximate cause: we often are contacted by potential clients whose lawyers have violated the ethical rules governing the practice of law in Texas. When a lawyer commits ethical misconduct that does not result in financial damage, the appropriate action is to file a grievance—not a claim for legal malpractice.
The final element of a claim for legal malpractice is that the client sustained damages.
These are the basic elements of a claim for legal malpractice. If you believe you have a case that may meet these elements, we would love to hear about it.