State laws govern the viability of causes of action for legal malpractice. The laws vary in terms of time limits to bring suit, qualifications of “expert” witnesses, cognizable theories of liability, and proper party defendants/proper party plaintiffs. Notwithstanding these differences, there are common themes for all cases, and general agreement from state to state on particular instances of nonfeasance or malfeasance of professional duties that may constitute legal malpractice.
Not all instances of malpractice involve an attorney’s handling of a case for trial (although persons generally think of attorneys within the context of matters involving litigation). For example, an attorney may fail to file a request for variance in a county zoning matter involving a parcel of real property or may fail to catch an error on closing documents submitted to him/her. An attorney may erroneously advise a client about an area of law, e.g. foreign adoption. Or an attorney may otherwise act on behalf of a client, against that client’s express authority or per-mission. Any of these may constitute examples of actionable legal malpractice.