Lawyers in most jurisdictions are held to a high standard of professional conduct due to the relationship that they hold with clients and the ethical responsibility they have both to clients and to the courts. When a lawyer breaches that ethical duty, he or she may be liable for legal malpractice. The victim of legal malpractice may file a lawsuit against an attorney for which a legal malpractice expert may be needed to testify. In order to become a legal malpractice expert witness, an individual must generally have the required educational background and hold an active license to practice law. In addition, anyone who aspires to become a legal malpractice expert witness should have experience working for the appropriate disciplinary agency or have experience teaching ethics to law students.
Although the ethical standards may vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, lawyers are universally held to high standards when it comes to the ethical responsibility that they have to both their clients and the courts. When a client believes that a lawyer has fallen short of his or her ethical responsibilities, the client may decide to pursue a legal malpractice lawsuit against the attorney. In order for the client to prevail, he or she will have to convince a judge or jury that the lawyer committed legal malpractice. Often, a legal malpractice expert is called to testify regarding what constitutes legal malpractice and to give an expert opinion regarding whether or not the attorney in question committed legal malpractice.
Although the requirements for a person to become a legal malpractice expert witness may vary somewhat by jurisdiction, as well as by courts within a jurisdiction, most will require the potential witness to have completed law school and to currently be licensed to practice law. In addition, most courts will expect the potential witness to have a significant amount of experience practicing law. A judge, for instance, might be considered an expert based solely on his or her work experience.
In most cases, a person who aspires to become a legal malpractice expert witness will be expected to have additional experience beyond simply practicing law. All states within the United States have a disciplinary agency or board that is comprised of attorneys who investigate complaints about other attorneys. Experience working for one of these agencies or boards would likely be what a court would be looking for when deciding whether a witness is qualified to testify as an expert. Another option for anyone who plans to become a legal malpractice expert witness might be to have experience teaching legal ethics in a law school setting. Ultimately, the court will make the determination as to whether or not a potential witness may testify as an expert.