The most common reasons I abstain from taking a case (which may or may not apply to your case) are the following:
- Insufficient damages. Most of my lawyer malpractice cases involve damage claims of at least several hundred thousand dollars, and many of them exceed $1 million. However, there are exceptions in which I take cases involving significantly lower damages, such as where there is admitted (or obvious) liability, and a confined set of issues to determine damages, for instance. This admittedly high threshold reflects the degree of resistance one typically encounters from the defense, and the unavoidably complex nature of most legal malpractice cases, both of which tend to drive up the time commitment and cost associated with prosecuting such a case.
- Insufficient evidence of linkage between the lawyer mistake(s) and the damage. Acts or omissions of a lawyer, and a bad result, are not enough. There must be a chain of causation persuasively linking the two. Often potential new clients present a laundry-list of alleged lawyer mistakes, and a bad ending, but too many loose ends in regards to linkage. Each attorney mistake must be evaluated to determine what likely would have happened if the mistake had not been committed, leading to a different and better result. Often, the litany of alleged mistakes ends up in a causation cul-de-sac when subjected to careful analysis.
- Too many separate issues that must be vanquished in order to win. This does not necessarily mean the case is too complex, per se, but that there are too many issues that the plaintiff must meet his/her burden of proof to overcome.
- Too complex. Sometimes the factual background of the case is simply too complex to be reasonably confident a jury will process and understand.
- Lawyer mistakes too scattered, subjective, or minor. In general it is better to present a case involving one big mistake (or a small number of big mistakes), than a long list of smaller errors. For instance, one important time limitations that is blown usually makes a more attractive case than a series of arguably bad judgment calls relating to litigation tactics.
- Lack of clear information from the client or client representative relating to the issues listed above.
- Too many allegedly negligent lawyers. Whether true/fair or not, this can lead to the perception on the part of the judge and jury that the client is difficult or conspiracy-minded. Also, going after multiple law firms increases the number of battle fronts, and the defense resources marshalled toward defeating the plaintiff.
- Too late. Often potential clients present a case that may be time-barred by the statute of limitations.