Lawyers Need to Beware of Unintended Client Relationships


(We’re starting a new series of legal ethics questions and answers presented by our faculty member, Allison Wood, who teaches legal ethics at Solo Practice University.  It’s a quick, easy reminder to help you avoid making some serious mistakes. Look for them once a month.  And we hope you get an ‘A’.)

Mrs. Potts calls you on the phone and explains she would like to meet with you because she claims that her husband’s surgery went terribly wrong and she wants to sue the doctors and the hospital. You agree to meet with her. During the meeting, you review the few medical records she showed you; and you tell her that you don’t think she has a case. She does not pursue the matter further. Later, she seeks a second opinion from another lawyer who tells her that she had a meritorious claim, but the statute of limitations on her claim has expired. Mrs. Potts immediately files a legal malpractice case against you. Will Mrs. Potts prevail?

  • Answer A: Her malpractice claim against you will fail because there was no written attorney agreement.
  • Answer B: She wins her malpractice claim and is awarded a significant monetary judgment against you.

Scroll down for the answer.




The correct answer is B.This is a summary of the facts in  Togstad v. Vesely, 291 N.W.2d 686 (1980 Minn). The lawyer unsuccessfully argued the points in (a) – (c); but the Court found that whether an attorney-client relationship existed was based on the subjective belief of the client. She went to his law office, she sought advice, and she received advice. It was reasonable for her to rely on the legal advice that she received. Judgment was entered against the lawyer for $676,000.

How did YOU do?

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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