Lawyers have to undergo more specialized education than many other professionals. Their jobs require a law degree, and they must pass the bar exam before securing state licensing to practice.
Given how high the standard is for legal professionals, most people put complete trust in the attorneys they hire. Unfortunately, not all lawyers are competent in their practice of law, which can result in unfavorable outcomes for their clients.
Competence means appropriate knowledge about an area of law
There are certain basic standards that people should be able to expect from an attorney who handles a legal matter on their behalf, regardless of whether it’s a civil or criminal matter. Expecting that your attorney has an understanding of the specific area of law is reasonable. Trusting them to research both legal precedent and applicable codes is also perfectly reasonable.
Lawyers should inform their clients when they don’t have experience or knowledge that pertains to a particular case. Hiring outside help or referring a case onto another attorney are the appropriate ways to handle a client request that doesn’t fall within an attorney’s area of expertise or experience.
Competence also means performing the job to a basic standard
If an attorney has direct knowledge of a specific area of law but fails to do things like show up to court or file paperwork before the statute of limitations passes, they have done their clients a grave disservice. Competence doesn’t just mean applying experience and education to individual cases. It also means having the organization and follow-through to perform all of the necessary functions of representing someone.
When your attorney displays incompetence through a lack of knowledge or by failing in the basic performance of their job, such a failure might open the door to a legal malpractice claim against them.