Legal Malpractice in Florida: Understanding Duty to Disclose a Mistake
Everybody makes mistakes sometimes—including even the most experienced legal professionals. After an error is made, it is crucial that lawyers are ready to take action to protect the case, their client, and their career. In Florida, lawyers have a basic duty to disclose significant errors to current and former clients.
Indeed, under American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule 1.4, lawyers have an obligation to provide certain communications to their client, including information about mistakes. Here, our Miami, FL legal malpractice attorneys explain the most important things that legal professionals should know about their duty to disclose errors.
You Must Inform a Client About a ‘Material Error’
According to the most up-to-date interpretation of ABA Model Rule 1.4, lawyers have a professional and ethical obligation to inform their client if they believe that they made a “material error” in relation to their representation. Under these rules, you should be prepared to disclose any material errors to both current and former clients as soon as you become aware of the fact that an error has occurred.
Defining Material Errors
Of course, this raises an important question: What does the Florida Bar Association consider to be a material error by an attorney? Certainly not every minor detail needs to be disclosed. You do not need to notify a client that you found a minor, meaningless typo on a document that has already been sent out. The basic standard for a material error is as follows:
- A mistake is deemed to be material if an outside, independent lawyer would determine that the error question is likely to harm the client or their case in some manner; or
- A mistake is deemed to be material if an outside, independent lawyer would determine that the error is likely to result in the client considering firing their attorney and seeking new legal representation.
Lean Towards Disclosure, But Be Ready to Seek Professional Guidance
As a general rule, lawyers who are not sure as to whether or not they should disclose a mistake that they made should lean towards making the disclosure. From an ethical and malpractice perspective, more disclosure is better. That being said, this can be a complicated issue. It must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis. If you made a possible error and you are not sure as to whether or not you should disclose the matter to your client, you should not hesitate to seek professional guidance. An experienced legal malpractice attorney can help you protect your interests.
Get Help From a Legal Malpractice Defense Attorney in Florida
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Miami legal malpractice lawyers are sophisticated, effective advocates for law firms and legal professionals. If you have questions about the duty to disclose or any other related matter, we are here to help. To get immediate assistance with your case, contact our legal team right away. From our offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we handle legal malpractice cases throughout the region.