Navigating Philadelphia Legal Malpractice: A Guide to Your Rights

Navigating Philadelphia Legal Malpractice: A Guide to Your Rights

Understanding Legal Malpractice: A Primer

Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to perform competent legal services for a client, causing harm. In Philadelphia, as elsewhere, understanding legal malpractice requires knowing its key elements:

  • Duty: The lawyer must have owed the client a duty to act appropriately.
  • Breach: The lawyer breached this duty through negligence, errors, or omissions.
  • Causation: The breach led directly to the client’s loss or damage.
  • Damage: The client suffered a quantifiable loss as a result.


Legal malpractice claims in Philadelphia hinge on proving these elements convincingly.

In many legal malpractice actions, a plaintiff seeking to recover is typically required to prove that the attorney breached a duty during the representation and that, as a result of that breach, the plaintiff lost that underlying case. This analysis, sometimes referred to as the “case within a case,” usually requires evidence that the underlying representation would have been successful, which can be quite a high bar.

Recognizing the Signs of Legal Malpractice in Philadelphia

Legal malpractice in Philadelphia may manifest through various indicators. Affected parties should be vigilant in identifying:

  • Missed filing dates or statute of limitations deadlines
  • Failure to assert defenses
  • Conflicts of interest that compromise representation
  • Failure to apply the law correctly 
  • Lack of informed consent from client(s) before critical decisions
  • Inadequate investigation or discovery, impacting case outcomes
  • Errors in legal documents, potentially detrimental to a case
  • Failure to convey settlement offers and demands
  • Lack of informed consent from client(s) to accept a settlement


When these signs are evident, it is essential to consult with a legal malpractice attorney to evaluate the case and determine the best course of action.

The Legal Framework Governing Malpractice Claims in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, legal malpractice claims are contingent upon proving that an attorney-client relationship existed, where the lawyer owed a duty to the client. Plaintiffs must demonstrate:

  • A breach of duty occurred due to negligence or intent.
  • This breach resulted in a direct causal link to the harm experienced.
  • Actual damages ensued from the malpractice.


Pennsylvania law dictates these elements, specifically the statutes and case law. The Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct also inform standards for attorney behavior. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations typically allows two years from the harm’s occurrence to file a legal malpractice lawsuit.

Navigating the Client-Lawyer Relationship: Expectations and Realities

The client-lawyer relationship is pivotal within the legal landscape of Philadelphia. Clients should expect their attorneys to:

  • Maintain proficiency in the areas of law that they practice.
  • Provide clear, actionable advice.
  • Communicate regularly and transparently.
  • Uphold ethical standards as prescribed by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.


Conversely, lawyers anticipate clients to:

  • Provide truthful, comprehensive information.
  • Respect professional boundaries and legal advice.
  • Fulfill financial obligations for services rendered.


These mutual expectations can shape the reality of the legal journey, striving for a balance between professional obligation and client trust.

Navigating the Client-Lawyer Relationship

The Process of Filing a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit in Philadelphia

Filing a legal malpractice lawsuit in Philadelphia requires several key steps:

  1. Secure legal representation with a lawyer experienced in professional malpractice.
  2. Collect relevant evidence, including case files and communication records.
  3. Establish that an attorney-client relationship existed and that the lawyer breached their duty.
  4. Prove that such a breach caused direct harm or financial loss.
  5. Determine the statute of limitations, typically two years in Pennsylvania, to ensure timely filing.


Your lawyer will then draft and file a complaint, marking the formal start of your litigation process.

Statute of Limitations: Timelines for Filing Malpractice Claims in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for legal malpractice claims is generally two years from the date the plaintiff knows, or reasonably should know, 1) that they have been injured, and 2) that their injury was caused by the lawyer’s conduct. . 42 PA Cons Stat § 5524 (2014)

  • The “discovery rule” may extend this period if the malpractice is not immediately apparent.
  • However, there is an ultimate cut-off termed the “statute of repose,” which limits any malpractice claim to be made within seven years from the date of the wrongful act.
  • Exceptions to these rules are rare and may apply to minors or those with disabilities.
  • It’s crucial to consult with a legal professional promptly to ensure the filing deadline is met.

Common Defenses Lawyers Use in Malpractice Cases

  • Standard of Care: Lawyers may argue that their care met legal standards.
  • Causation: The defense may contend that the plaintiff’s losses were not directly due to the attorney’s actions.
  • Contributory Negligence: Arguing that the plaintiff’s actions contributed to their damages.
  • Statute of Limitations: Asserting that the plaintiff filed the legal malpractice claim beyond the legal time limit.
  • Scope of Representation: Lawyers could state that the alleged malpractice fell outside their agreed-upon services.

Damages and Compensation: What Clients Can Recover in Malpractice Claims

In Philadelphia, clients in legal malpractice claims can seek several types of damages, including:

  • Compensatory Damages: These are intended to compensate for the losses suffered as a direct result of the malpractice.
  • Consequential Damages: Cover additional losses that occur as a result of the initial harm.
  • Punitive Damages: Although less common, these may be awarded if the attorney’s conduct was particularly egregious to punish and deter future misconduct.
  • Attorney Fees: In some cases, the court may order the return of fees paid to the former attorney if malpractice is established.


Recovering damages hinges on proving that the attorney’s breach of duty directly caused the client’s damages.

Choosing the Right Attorney for Your Legal Malpractice Case

Selecting an adept attorney for a legal malpractice claim in Philadelphia requires meticulous vetting. Consider:

  • Experience with malpractice law: Lawyers knowledgeable in this field will better understand the nuances of legal malpractice litigation.
  • Track record of success: Research previous case results to gauge the lawyer’s effectiveness in malpractice suits.
  • Communication skills: Your attorney should promptly address concerns and communicate legal strategies.
  • Client testimonials: Reviews from prior clients can offer insights into the lawyer’s reliability and client satisfaction.


Strategically chosen representation can significantly impact the outcome of your malpractice claim.

Legal Malpractice Case

Protecting Your Rights and Seeking Justice in Malpractice Cases

  1. In Philadelphia, legal malpractice victims must proactively protect their rights. 
  • It is highly recommended to seek the advice of a qualified malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Folkman Law is a reliable option for such legal services.
  • Make sure to gather all the necessary evidence and carefully document every interaction.
  • It is important to have knowledge about the time limit within which a legal claim can be filed. This is known as the statute of limitations.

Acting quickly enhances the chances of obtaining redress and upholding the integrity of the legal profession. Justice, although sometimes arduous to achieve, is within reach when due diligence is exercised in malpractice cases.