The Rules of Professional Conduct cover many different topics as they pertain to lawyers and how they handle their profession. Section 1.1 deals with the lawyer’s competency. The two sections contained under competency explain that lawyers must handle legal matters ethically; they cannot neglect a matter which has been entrusted to them in any way that constitutes gross negligence. Lawyers must be competent in their handling of legal matters in general such that they do not show evidence of patterns of neglect.
What constitutes negligence or gross negligence?
A NJ attorney cannot neglect or ignore a legal matter that was entrusted to them for their care. Negligence may occur when a legal professional simply does not pay attention to details. Gross negligence occurs in cases where the lawyer consciously and voluntarily disregards the provision of reasonable legal protection for his clientele. Both negligence and gross negligence are disallowed under the Rules of Professional Conduct. When a matter is entrusted to the care of a lawyer he has a legal and ethical obligation to serve the client’s needs without showing neglect. Neglect can be exhibited in simply not carrying out the standard obligations that a client is owed by their lawyer.RPC 1.1 is concerned with those instances where a lawyer is intentionally inattentive to a case. When they disregard the due responsibilities it is considered to be neglectful. Clients are to receive diligent and competent representation in their legal matters.
Performance or Technical Skills?
When a lawyer is in law school he can learn a set of skills which equip him with “technical competency.” They are taught how to think and act like a lawyer and this contributes to their overall competency, but it is still only representative of about half of the equation. The other half is what can be termed “performance competency” and is comprised of the practical abilities that are to be used to benefit the client and serve them satisfactorily. Not only must a NJ attorney need to have a working knowledge of the legal system but they must also be competent enough to communicate effectively with clients. Just having knowledge of the law does not demonstrate competency, lawyers must be able to use this gained knowledge in ways that are beneficial to presenting their client’s case in the courtroom and having satisfactory results.
Different Types of Neglect
There can be many different aspects to practicing law and a lawyer must demonstrate that they are competent across many facets. Even if the lawyer has expertise in his field, but cannot run his office in an ethical manner, then not only are the best interests of the client at stake, so are the attorney’s own interests. Competent lawyers can work in a responsible manner to meet deadlines, monitor and manage legal matters inside statues of limitations, and keep track of client costs as well as their expectations. For a lawyer to adhere to legal ethics under Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, they will need to perform competently in every area. In many cases, disciplinary cases are filed because of the lack of professionalism from the practical side of the practice.
Neglect and Disciplinary Cases
Out of the disciplinary cases which are filed annually just a little over half of them involve issues dealing with performance competency. Disciplinary cases typically cover such things as charging excessive fees, inadequate communication with a client, trust account violations, conflict or neglect. The rest of the cases typically involve technical details which lawyers were never trained in and are typically things such as unintentional violations dealing with actions or business practices.