Law Office Of Michael G. O’Neill, The Types of Cases We Handle
Just Plain Bad Luck ...
Or What Can Happen When You Choose The Wrong Lawyer

God forgive me, I am not perfect, and I have made mistakes. Every lawyer does. The conscientious ones confront those mistakes and do everything possible to minimize or make right the wrong. The bad lawyers try to hide their mistakes, they run from them, the lie to their clients and all involved.

Ultimately, however, it is the client who suffers for the mistakes of his or her lawyer. This is because the client hires the lawyer and so the same rules apply as for when anyone is hired. These rules are called, somewhat anachronistically, the "master and servant" rules, also called rules of Agency. (Purists will point out that these are not exactly the same concepts.) Simply put, the "master" is responsible for the mistakes of the "servant." The idea is that you have the right to direct the activities of your "servant" and the "servant" is performing services on your behalf, so it is as if the actions of the "servant" were your own actions.

Most people (unlike big businesses) don't really understand this about lawyers. A bad lawyer can bring you more troubles than you started out with. Consider what happened to an individual named Alvarado.

Mr. Alvarado believed that he had been discriminated against by his former employer, the Manhattan Worker Career Center. So Mr. Alvarado did what thousands of individuals do every year, he sought out legal advice. He found a lawyer with a nice ad in the yellow pages, a color picture and all. It turned out to be an unlucky choice.

The lawyer Alvadrado hired didn't pay much attention to the case. He missed deadlines, ignored court orders and failed to provide information required by the court process. As a result, not only was Alvarado's case dismissed, but the judge ordered Alvarado to pay the defendants' attorneys' fees which were incurred as a result of his lawyer's misconduct. Those fees amounted to nearly $30,000 and might bankrupt Alvarado.

According to Alvarado, during all of this his lawyer kept telling him that his case was going well. When Alvarado did find out, he fired his lawyer and asked the judge to reopen the case. He told the judge that he didn't know about any of this, that his lawyer lied to him throughout, and that none of it was his fault. Although the judge accepted Alvarado's story, it didn't matter. Alvarado had chosen his lawyer and was responsible for his conduct, even his mishandling of Alvarado's case. It happened to a client of mine...

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Read the Decision Here.
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