Firms of solicitors owe their clients a duty of care and must always act in their clients’ best interests. So, for a professional negligence claim against your lawyer to succeed, you must prove that they failed in their duty of care towards you. This can be done by establishing that they failed to meet the professional standards required of them.
Regardless of the lawyer’s experience, the standard they must meet is that of a ‘reasonably competent practitioner’. If the lawyer is, or claims to be, a specialist in the area of law in question, they will instead be held to the standard of a reasonably competent specialist practitioner in that area of law.
If it can be proved that your lawyer breached their duty of care, it must then be shown that:
- you suffered a loss; and
- this loss was caused by your lawyer breaching their duty
To illustrate all of this, imagine you suffered a personal injury and are making a claim. Your solicitor is careless and overlooks important information in your medical report. As a result, he values your injury claim at £2,000, whereas if he had carefully considered all of the information available to him, he would have valued it at £5,000.
Your solicitor has now breached his duty of care towards you; his actions have fallen below the standard of a reasonably competent solicitor. He then advises you to settle your claim for this £2,000 sum and you, understandably, rely upon his advice. His carelessness in reading the medical report has now caused you a loss.
Through no fault of your own, you have settled your case for £3,000 less than its actual value. You relied on your solicitor to act in your best interests and he let you down.