by Brian Mahany
I haven’t moved to Texas yet but I do read the Texas Lawyer. Last month they reported on a lawsuit against legal giant Baker Botts. The estate of a Houston man says the firm made an estate planning error that cost the man’s heirs over $1 million.
The suit claims that back in 1985, the firm was hired to do some estate planning work. The goal of the plan was to reduce taxes and maximize the amount of money passing to the man’s wife and children. According to the article, the firm failed to file a gift tax return. That mistake ultimately cost the estate over $1,000,000.00.
For those not familiar with the firm, Baker Botts is a multinational law firm with 725 lawyers. Often people tell us that they hired a “big” law firm thinking that “big” means “better.” While we have the utmost respect for Baker Botts, everyone makes mistakes. Finding a lawyer willing to sue a big law firm (or big bank for that matter) is often quite difficult, however.
This suit is likely to be an uphill battle but the stakes are high enough to warrant it. Generally, states only allow negligence claims to be filed against lawyer within a couple years of the mistake. The clock often doesn’t start, however, until the mistake is discovered or should have been discovered. It’s the latter language that often leads to very different interpretations.
Another problem is the sheer passage of time. The original client is now dead (that’s often the situation in probate malpractice cases) and most folks can’t remember that far back. We don’t know enough of the facts to formulate our own opinion, however, successful malpractice cases where the claim dates back 27 years are very rare.
If your lawyer has intentionally or negligently mishandled your case give us a call. Examples of legal malpractice include failing to meet deadlines, improper conflicts of interest, providing bad advice or misusing client funds. The size or reputation of our adversary doesn’t scare us.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Legal services available to residents of many other states.