Malpractice is professional negligence or (less frequently) professional misconduct. Attorney malpractice generally implies an unreasonable lack of skill, or failure to render professional services in a manner consistent with that degree of skill, care, and learning expected of a reasonably competent and prudent member of the legal profession. Claims against attorneys (lawyers) for legal malpractice are viable in all fifty states. There is no federal law governing attorney malpractice, and state statutes typically address only the appropriate statute of limitations (limiting the time period) for filing claims or lawsuits against attorneys. However, state case law will define and set the parameters for actionable cases of malpractice within the state.
For legal malpractice to be “actionable” (having all the components necessary to constitute a viable cause of action), there must be a duty owed to someone, a breach of that duty, and resulting harm or damage that is proximately caused by that breach. The simplest way to apply the concept of proximate cause to legal malpractice is to ask whether, “but for” the alleged negligence, the harm or injury would have occurred?