A recent story in New York Times Legal Clients Called Him Shlomo; U.S. Calls Him a Fraud provides an important example why clients should learn as much as they can about their attorneys. According to the paper "Court papers say the impostor then used the real Mr. Dickerman’s attorney registration number to set up shop for himself, charging $400 an hour for legal advice". It is remarkable that this imposter was not only being able to fool his clients, but successfully managed to con Office of Court Administration, be sworn in at Federal District Court in Brooklyn and since 2012 represented his clients in at least 12 federal lawsuits. Apparently no one bothered to check his status with NY Bar and verify any of his credentials.

How to prevent your attorney from committing malpractice errors

1. Choose a good attorney.

     Granted, it is easier to say than to have done. Still, do not feel a rush to retain an attorney and be satisfied by asking a few friends. Compile a list of attorneys you think you might retain at least 10 names long and then check everyone on the list before you start calling them for setting up a first meeting. Believe us, it is the best investment of your time you can make. Keep in mind that even if an attorney is interested in your case he/she might have a conflict of interest and not be able to take on your case.

    When selecting an attorney do not be overly concern how close his office is to your work or home. With proliferation of e-mail and faxes as well telephones, you do not need to have personal meetings that are actually often less efficient than a good e-mail exchange. In fact, e-mail exchange leaves a paper record that is hard to dismiss, while conversation either phone or during meetings can be easily contested as he said-she said because people always have different memory recollections and tend to forget details over time. That brings us to the next point.

2. Keep file of all documents, e-mail and fax communication, notes, etc.

   It is obvious that you should keep copies of all documents related to your case, such as evidence related to your dispute and filed by your attorney in court. It is also goes without saying that you should have all your e-mail, fax and mail communication with your attorney archived and preserved. You do not need to have everything saved as hard copy electronically stored documents can be easily printed if needed and much more easier to search. However, do not forget to make and keep backups regularly electronically stored documents can be easily printed if needed and much more easier to search. However, do not forget to make and keep backups regularly. Additionally, it is a good idea to take and preserve notes during telephone conversation or meeting with your attorney and e-mail them to your attorney to confirm that you understood him/her correctly. Your attorney has your file and you are certainly have a right to request it at any time, but if dispute occurs some documents might "unfortunately" disappear or never "existed".

3. Keep log of time of your conversations with attorney on the phone, meetings and his/her appearance in court.

   It is a good idea not to rely on attorney to keep time record, but keep your own log of telephone conversations, meetings, etc. When you get a regular bill from your attorney you will be able to check items on that invoice against your log and prevent any "unfortunate" over-billings. 

4. Ask from your attorney opposition filings and court rulings.

   Do not question your ability to understand legal documents. Do not be just satisfied with an explanation you receive from your attorney about opposition actions — ask for a copy of their filings. Firstly, you can read it and check for representations of the facts of your case that you know about and can object to or clarify them. Secondly, if you do not understand something of purely legal matter such as a term or theory you can always ask your attorney to explain it to you

5. Do not rely on your attorney to remember everything

  Large part of a legal case is a process of information exchange between you and your attorney, between your attorney and opposing counsel, between attorneys and judge and jury. Every time information is transferred from on person to another there are potentials for information loss, altering, or wrong interpretation. You know your case better than most other people, you have more vested interest in your case then many other people, you have, most often, only one case. Your attorney and judge most of the time have many cases and it is your responsibility to tell and remind them all details and connections of your case and make sure that their understanding is correct. There are no unimportant details, but all details have different level of importance. It is a good idea to write your story down and keep updating it with new details that you recalled or that were discovered during pre-trial discovery and during the trial. Your understanding of events will change, but you will not only be in control and in sync with the changes, but be able to explain your attorney chain of events, facts and relations between them. You need to make sure that your attorney understands correctly all the events, facts and relations between them the way you understand them or explain to you what is incorrect with your understanding. Only this way you can be sure that attorney will be able to represent you correctly and convince judge and jury to side with you and dismiss opposition's spin of facts.Large part of a legal case is a process of information exchange between you and your attorney, between your attorney and opposing counsel, between attorneys and judge and jury. Every time information is transferred from on person to another there are potentials for information loss, altering, or wrong interpretation. You know your case better than most other people, you have more vested interest in your case then many other people, you have, most often, only one case. Your attorney and judge most of the time have many cases and it is your responsibility to tell and remind them all details and connections of your case and make sure that their understanding is correct. There are no unimportant details, but all details have different level of importance. It is good idea to write your story down and keep updating it with new details that you recalled or that were discovered during pre-trial investigation and during the trial. You understanding of events will change, but you will not only be in control and in sync with the changes, but be able to explain your attorney chain of events, facts and relations between them. You need to make sure that your attorney understands correctly all the events, facts and relations between them the way you understand them or explain to you what is incorrect with your understanding. Only this way you can be sure that attorney will be able to represent you correctly and convince judge and jury to side with you and dismiss opposition's spin of facts.