What is breach of Fiduciary Duty?
The Fiduciary Duty that you are owed by your attorney is the lawful imposition of your attorney’s commitment to your best interests. As their client, your interests MUST always come before their own.
Fiduciary Duty can be categorized as a combination of duties:
- The duty of care establishes a standard of reasonable care against which all of your attorney’s actions are judged.
- The duty of loyalty ensures that your attorney and their firm cannot put anyone’s interest ahead of yours, or represent a party with interests against yours, or take any action that indicates that there is an attorney conflict of interest.
- The duty of confidentiality establishes that your lawyer cannot reveal information relating to your case (or you), without your consent.
- The duty of full disclosure requires that your attorney disclose all pertinent information to you about your case, or that affects you or your case.
These duties, among others, draw the borders surrounding the Fiduciary Duty that a client is owed by their attorney. They are intended to protect the client and ensure the integrity of the justice system.
The lawyers at Sears Crawford take our duty to our clients very seriously. At Sears Crawford, our client’s ALWAYS come first. We sue lawyers who have breached their Fiduciary Duty to their clients because we care about our clients and the integrity of our profession.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty examples
There are a number of ways in which an attorney can breach their fiduciary duty to a client. Some of the more common forms include:
- Failure to maintain confidentiality
- Withholding pertinent information from the client
- A breach of the duty of fidelity and loyalty, through current or past clients
- Self-dealing or conflicts of interest
What does it mean when a lawyer has a conflict of interest?
It means that there is conflict between the attorney’s professional duties and personal interests — and they choose to put their interests ahead of yours, breaching their Fiduciary Duty to you. There are many ways in which attorney conflict of interest can arise. Some common attorney conflict of interest examples are:
- Representation of clients with competing interests
- Membership in groups or clubs with political affiliations
- Romantic relationships with anyone related to the case or client
- Current and former clients
The law recognizes that clients trust and rely on their attorneys and therefore usually do not immediately know when their attorney has breached their fiduciary duty to their client. It can be difficult to discover when and how your attorney breached their duty to you, which is why the courts of Texas have enacted the “Discovery Rule” and the legislature has enacted deadlines by which a client must file suit against their attorney. This is one of the reasons why the Breach of Fiduciary Duty statute of limitations in Texas is typically four years. The general rule for negligence is 2 years from the date of discovery of the wrongful act or omission. Both of these deadlines can be extended depending on the facts and circumstances. This is why it is extremely important to contact Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford, immediately upon discovering your attorney’s malpractice in order to make sure you do not miss any critical deadlines in your case.
Difference between legal malpractice and Breach of Fiduciary Duty
We know there are many reasons to file a lawsuit against an attorney. Besides a Breach of Fiduciary Duty, it is possible that in violating the attorney-client agreement your lawyer committed legal malpractice or attorney negligence.
What is legal malpractice? Legal malpractice is when an attorney “acts, or fails to act” how a reasonable and prudent attorney would act under the same or similar circumstances; AND that act or omission causes damages to the client. Generally speaking, Legal Malpractice is legally distinct from a breach of Fiduciary Duty claim, but the two have the ability to overlap, and often go hand in hand. Some common examples of legal malpractice are:
- Failure to know or apply the law
- Failure to obtain client consent
- Inadequate discovery
- Failure to calendar
- Missing important deadlines