Legal Question in Legal Malpractice in Minnesota

Attorney malpractice

How/where do I find an attorney who will sue another attorney? Divorce lawyer handed a hearing off to an unprepared ''colleague'' resulting in me having to file an amended tax return and repay the IRS $5000+. Then he withdrew from my case with 2 days notice, less than 30 days to the pre-trial hearing, and 3 days from my husband's Contempt of Court threat. He refused to release my file to another attorney unless I signed a ''substitute of attorney'' form. My new lawyer is trying to clean up the mess. Should I report this to the MN Professional Responsibility Board myself? 4 lawyers I checked with are of the opinion that this guy ''wastes people's money, wastes the court's time, and give inappropriate advice. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Asked on 4/27/07, 11:32 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Regina Mullen Legal Data Services, PLC

Re: Attorney malpractice

No attorney is going to release his file until the client signs off on it. That's standard procedure,--you can't have two attorneys who are NOT working together represent you at the same time.

You might be able to motion it up and testify in open court to the substitution, and get an order for the file...but this sounds way overblown. Sign the substitution, get the file.

If you owed the IRS money, then the fact that the attorney was "unprepared" may not matter. If a note in the file said "money is owed, no defense" it only takes a minute to read that.

When the lawyers you consulted are willing to back up their opinions in writing, then you can trust them. In fact, if you want to sue the guy, you're going to need some sort of professional opinion, if it's not obvious...and I mean OBVIOUS... malpractice.

Second, you have a responsibility to do your part to make sure your rights aren't affected. If you wanted him to do something he shouldn't do (there's obviously something going on if you were about to be held in contempt of court) or realized long ago that he was worthless as counsel, then it was your CHOICE to keep him on. You'll have to deal with that in deposition.

Malpractice cases really aren't that hard, but ask yourself what you have to gain *back* by suing him. You have to have been damaged somehow, and having to pay an IRS bill doesn't count, particularly, since this can be balanced in the overall divorce judgment if it was improper.

Finally, you can DEFINITELY mediate this kind of case, if you can release the anger a bit and ask yourself what your priorities are. Going after a lawyer seems to me much less important than getting your fair shake out of the divorce. How many battles do you really think you can fight at one time?

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Answered on 5/01/07, 3:01 pm

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