In addition, there are clear instances when attorneys should decline representation because they are not skilled enough—or do not possess the requisite subject matter knowledge—to provide competent representation for a client. By way of example, such legal matters as wrongful death by medical malpractice, complex corporate mergers or buy-outs, or complex financial transactions, should not be handled by new attorneys without supervision. Often, mistakes in taking on a new client are made when new attorneys want to “impress” their colleagues or superiors, or when sole practitioners need money or more cases.
An attorney retained to represent a client in one matter may unilaterally and without authority decide to represent a client, or act on the client’s behalf, in another unrelated matter. The client may subsequently ratify the representation, or, if harmed, may sue for malpractice. Likewise, an attorney retained for a specific matter may unilaterally and without authority decide to accept an offer of settlement for a certain amount of money, without the client’s authority. This is a good example of malpractice but may not be “actionable” malpractice, if the client is unable to prove (by a preponderance) that he or she would have gotten more money had the matter gone to trial.