Chandler Law is committed to providing superior legal services to our individual and corporate clients. We focus our practice on three primary areas:
- Professional liability & legal malpractice – breach of professional duty, and other professional malpractice.
- Ethics & attorney discipline – Georgia State Bar discipline and fee arbitration matters.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution – Certified and registered neutral for arbitration and mediation matters.
We also devote a portion of our practice to serving in an expert witness capacity for legal malpractice cases for both plaintiffs and defendants.
Integrity. Honesty. Objectivity. Our goals are to protect your rights and ensure that you receive the results and applicable compensation to which you are entitled. With Chandler Law, you will always know:
- Where you stand
- The next steps in your case
- The potential outcomes
Most cases we take on are referred from previous or current clients and other lawyers in the community who know what we do and how we work. We don’t take on a case unless we strongly believe we can achieve a positive outcome. And then we work hard to achieve
We take on challenging cases and seek outstanding results, whether through settlement or trial. We are committed to advising our clients of their best interests at all stages of every matter, and representing each client’s objective to the best of our abilities.
Douglas Chandler was sworn in as a member of the Georgia Bar and became licensed to practice law in Georgia in 1999. Previously, Douglas was a partner at Beltran & Chandler of Atlanta. Douglas formed Chandler Law, LLC in August 2011.
1. I think my attorney made a mistake in my case. How do I know if he committed malpractice?
Malpractice is a very serious claim, and one that can really only be determined on a case by case basis. In order for a lawsuit to be filed against a lawyer or other professional (doctor, etc.), you will first need a sworn Affidavit from another professional in that field clearly stating at least one negligent act by the professional. For this reason alone, you should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in professional liability matters if you believe you’ve been the victim of professional negligence or malpractice.
2. What do I have to prove to win my case of legal malpractice?
A legal malpractice case is known as “the case within the case.” This means that to be successful in a legal malpractice case, you must show that you could have been successful in the first matter had your attorney not made a mistake. You, as professional liability claimant, must show that each of these items existed:
a. An attorney-client relationship
b. A duty by the attorney to do something for you, the client
c. A breach of the attorney’s duty
d. Damages caused by the attorney’s breach of that duty
Additionally, you must show that your damages in the primary case were collectible damages. If not, you still may not recover from the professional.
3. Does an attorney-client relationship require a written contract?
Although documenting ALL business relationships in writing is a best practice, a written attorney contract is only required for cases being handled on a contingency basis. This means that a written contract is not required to prove the existence of an attorney-client relationship. Again, attorneys and clients alike should document fee agreements and the representation parameters in writing to avoid confusion later on.
4. How long do I have before I must file a professional liability case?
State specific statutes of limitations dictate how long you have to file, and when the clock starts ticking on that timeframe. In Georgia, the general rule is that an action for legal malpractice must be filed within four years of the negligent act, but see our blog post on this topic for more information. Regardless of when you believe your attorney made a mistake, time is of the essence, so you should seek legal counsel immediately.
5. Am I entitled to receive additional compensation because my attorney made a mistake handling my case?
Just because an attorney made a mistake does not mean that you are entitled to additional compensation. Ordinarily, you, as a legal malpractice claimant, may only recover what you would have received in your primary case had a mistake not been made. If the mistake was minor, you’re probably out of luck. In other situations, you may be able to recover attorney’s fees, expenses and other damages. The full extent of your damages may not be known until some later point in time. That’s why a professional liability case requires in-depth review and assessment to determine the chances of success.
6. If I settle my case of professional malpractice or win at trial, who will pay me?
There are only two ways to recover money in settlement or after a favorable jury verdict:
a. Through the insurance policy of the professional.
b. Through payment directly from the professional or some post judgment collection efforts against that professional.
If the professional does not have professional errors & omissions insurance coverage (malpractice insurance) and does not have sufficient personal assets to pay for his malpractice, then you may never see any monetary recovery.
7. Doctors have insurance. Are lawyers also required to have insurance to pay for their mistakes?
Unlike doctors and some other professionals, attorneys are not required to have malpractice (errors & omissions) insurance coverage. There is no exact statistic, but approximately 25-30% of the attorneys in Georgia do not carry malpractice insurance. If you sue an attorney who does not carry malpractice insurance, then you must seek a direct settlement or judgment payment from the attorney, or seek recovery through collection efforts against the attorney’s assets. If the attorney does not have insurance or sufficient assets from which to resolve a case or pay a judgment, then you have little chance of ever recovering. Before hiring an attorney, you should ask whether they have malpractice insurance.
Ethics & Attorney Discipline
1. I did my best for my client. Why did my client file a Bar grievance against me?
Sometimes the professional relationship between an attorney and the client sours. Sometimes the client believes the attorney has done something which warrants an ethics complaint. This is not an unusual situation. Sometimes it is not the client, but a judge, another attorney or some other third party who files the Bar grievance. Please read on.
2. I just received a letter from the State Bar attaching a complaint by my client. Now what?
Receiving a letter from the State Bar which encloses a grievance from a client, a judge, another attorney or the Investigative Panel is very unsettling and scary. Not knowing how to respond or what to expect next in the process is also troubling. This is usually the first stage in the disciplinary process and should be taken very seriously even if you believe it is without merit. Before responding on your own and possibly making your situation worse, you should consult counsel for an objective evaluation of your circumstances, to assess potential outcomes and to develop a strategy to deal with the matter. Don’t panic, but DO NOT ignore the problem. Get help.
3. I just received a Notice of Investigation from the State Bar. What can I expect next?
Receiving a Notice of Investigation (NOI) means that you are entering the second stage of the Bar disciplinary process. If you have already responded to the grievance on your own, your receipt of the NOI means that the State Bar has found that you may have violated one or more of the Bar Rules noted in the body of the NOI. Now the complaint will be investigated by a Member of the State Bar’s Investigative Panel. The NOI requires that you file another response, but this time a Verified Response. By filing the Verified Response, you are now stating under oath to the State Bar that the facts as plead are true and accurate. The grievant will be given a chance to respond and rebut your Verified Response. If you did not get help with your initial response to the grievance, it is time to get help now! The NOI is also accompanied by an Acknowledgement of Service. If you sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service, you have thirty days from the date of signing to file your Verified Response. Therefore, time is of the essence and you should seek competent advice.
4. Can’t I defend myself? Why do I need an attorney to defend me in the disciplinary process?
Receiving a grievance can be a mind numbing, depressing and angry time all rolled up into one big ball of emotion. It is nearly impossible to remain objective and respond to a grievance, a Notice of Investigation or Formal Complaint. When you decide to represent yourself, you do so at your own peril because:
- It is difficult to remain objective.
- You will invariably say too much and risk confusing the issues being reviewed by the State Bar.
- You will not give enough detail for the State Bar to make an informed determination as to whether a Bar Rule has been violated.
Consider the lack of wisdom in representing your own interests in the disciplinary process, then contact us.
5. Does errors and omissions insurance cover Bar complaints?
Each policy is different but many policies these days are offering some level of coverage for the fees and expenses incurred when defending a Bar grievance. Some policies allow you to choose your own counsel and have your attorney’s fees and expenses reimbursed if there is a dismissal or similar disposition. Because each policy is different, you should review your policy immediately, call your agent and/or consult with counsel who can review your policy with you.
6. Will the process be different for me if I suffer from substance abuse, depression or some other clinical ailment?
The State Bar is very concerned about attorneys who face impairment issues. In fact, the State Bar offers the Lawyer’s Assistance Program (LAP) for attorneys dealing with impairment problems. Contact the LAP by clicking here. Receipt of a Bar grievance is often the wake-up call to some other underlying problem. When faced with impairment and disciplinary issues, the burden becomes twice as heavy. Seek personal assistance and legal counsel who understand the interrelationship between the disciplinary process and treatment.
7. Should I tell my spouse and family that I have a disciplinary action pending against me?
Full disclosure to spouse and family is highly encouraged, and can be helpful in diffusing the anger and other emotions related to the action, but that’s your decision to make. Chandler Law has encouraged many clients to seek support and refuge with a spouse, family member, church or synagogue. When you feel like your professional life and career are falling apart, those closest to you can be the best no-cost support available.