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Legal Malpractice: What is "Competence?"

When you hire an attorney to represent you in a legal matter, you should be able to trust that the attorney is knowledgeable and competent about the law. Unfortunately, just as in any role or profession, sometimes clients find themselves harmed because an attorney made mistakes in handling their case.

If your attorney was negligent or incompetent and you were harmed because of his/her actions, you may be able to recover damages in a legal malpractice claim. It's important to understand that simply losing your case does not necessarily rise to the level of legal malpractice. Instead, you must be able to show through evidence that your attorney was negligent and that your case could have been decided differently, had your attorney been competent.

The Competence Issue

Attorneys admitted to practice law by the Colorado State Bar are required to adhere to Colorado's Rules of Professional Conduct. As they relate to an attorney's competence, the rules require attorneys to have the legal knowledge and skills to handle matters they accept for clients.

This does not necessarily mean the attorney must be experienced; a brand-new attorney may be just as capable of handling a matter as a more experienced attorney, but the rule requires that attorneys be able to apply their knowledge and skills to represent their clients through adequate thoroughness and preparation. Attorneys may also get assistance from other more experienced attorneys to handle cases for their clients, however they must reasonably believe that the other attorney(s) will help with representing the client, and the client must provide informed consent to the arrangement.

Problems can arise when an attorney does not recognize that he or she lacks the knowledge and skills needed, or fails to prepare appropriately when representing clients.

Proving that your attorney was not competent to handle your legal matter is not always easy, but it is possible. If you believe that you or someone you love was harmed because of an attorney's incompetence or negligence, contact an experienced legal malpractice attorney to explore possible actions and remedies.

Source: http://www.cobar.org/RulesofProfessionalConduct

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