Can I Sue An Attorney Who Gave Me A Consultation?
WHAT IS A LEGAL CONSULTATION?
Many lawyers offer consultations, (often free of charge) at which a potential client can ask questions about a potential case or claim. Sometimes, the lawyer will offer suggestions, or discuss the potential claims or legal actions available to the potential client.
Consultations also give the lawyer an opportunity to consider whether or not to take the case.
Note the use of the phrase “potential client”–in most cases, a consultation, without more, does not create an attorney-client relationship.
CAN A POTENTIAL CLIENT SUE A LAWYER ABOUT ADVICE GIVEN DURING A CONSULTATION?
As a rule, a potential client cannot sue a lawyer for professional negligence (malpractice). This is because, in most cases, an attorney-client relationship is a prerequisite for, and a necessary element of, a malpractice claim. Assuming no attorney-client relationship was created during the consultation, the person who consulted the attorney is not a “client,” and has no standing to claim the lawyer’s advice was negligent.
That said, there are exceptions. For example:
- Where an attorney-client relationship was created during the consultation.
- Where a non-client was an intended beneficiary of an attorney’s services or advice.
In the situations above (which are rare), a person may be able to bring a malpractice claim. If you think one of these applies to you, or are not certain, contact an attorney for an evaluation of your legal rights.
WHY IS AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP A REQUIRED ELEMENT OF MALPRACTICE CLAIMS?
A lawyer’s legal duty to use reasonable due care and skill applies when the lawyer is providing services to a client–which means that (unless an exception applies) non-clients can’t sue a lawyer for malpractice. This might seem strange, in the sense that of course we want all lawyers to behave in a reasonably professional manner whenever possible. However, the question here is not what a lawyer should do, but when a lawyer can be held legally and financially responsible for someone else’s damages. Viewed from that perspective, the requirement of an attorney-client relationship does make sense. If the law is going to hold someone legally responsible for another person’s injury or damages, the person in question (here, the lawyer) should be aware that potential liability exists. More importantly, since malpractice liability arises from professional negligence, it makes sense to hold lawyers responsible for it in situations where they are acting as professionals–i.e., representing clients.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your legal rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal rights or claims. Consult an experienced attorney promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, potential damages, and the various legal rights and options available to you.
You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses), as well as legal and court procedures, are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your individual rights and claims.