Sexual Assault in Legal Malpractice in Massachusetts

Is it legal malpractice when an attorney demands or requests sexual favors for legal work?   Is it legal malpractice when an attorney assaults his or her client?  Is it legal malpractice when an attorney and a client have a romantic relationship? 

These are complicated questions and the facts, the history and the emotional damages are critical to your case.

Types of Sexual Assault Legal Malpractice Cases

There many types of inappropriate sexual relationships between attorneys and their clients.  The general cases tend to follow one of the following patterns:

First and foremost, assault is assault.  An unwanted touching is an assault and there is a civil cause of action for this, regardless of an attorney client relationship.  If it is in the course of an attorney client relationship, and if the touching is sexual in nature, it’s actionable – there is a case. 

We have represented victims in which the lawyer, because he or she knows the intimate details of the client’s life, and knowing the client to be in a vulnerable or desperate place, sexually assaults the client.  This is highly inappropriate and can result in depression, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other forms of emotional distress.  The damages to the client are often long term.  We have used Social Workers and Psychiatrists to meet with the client and develop written reports to assist clients in proving their damages in such cases.

We have represented victims where the lawyer has induced the client into a sexual relationship, lavishing attention on the victim because of his or her foreknowledge of the client’s position.  The fact that the sexual relationship was consensual is but one factor in our examination for legal malpractice.  We review the timing of the relationship – one year after representing a client and meeting for a drink is likely more innocuous than inducing sex when a bill is due, or a trial is imminent, and the client is fearful.   These are the cases we evaluate – we can use text messages, photographs, emails, phone records, to show an inappropriate relationship – documents that corroborate the client’s report.   

Billing cases.  We have represented victims in which a legal bill is due, and the attorney made it clear that in exchange for sexual favors the bill would be reduced or eliminated.  Of course, this is inappropriate, actionable, and can be part of a legal malpractice case.  Timing is everything in such cases – phone calls, text messages, and emails will need to be reviewed.  We have the experience to undertake your claims.

Experts in Sexual Assault By Attorney Cases

To fully prosecute a sexual assault case, the use of an expert is important.  We have the experience to work with your therapist or bring in an expert who has appeared in similar cases.  We also incorporate legal experts into sexual assault cases – to testify that the type of relationship that the attorney fostered is malpractice in Massachusetts.

The Law in Sexual Conduct Legal Malpractice Cases

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court provides the Rules of Professional Conduct, which were last amended in 2016.  The rules are long, complicated, and made up of many subparts, however, various subparts are in fact related to legal malpractice if violated.  Rule 1.7 discusses “conflicts of interest” and states, in Comment 12: 

“The relationship between lawyer and client is a fiduciary one in which the lawyer occupies the highest position of trust and confidence. Because of this fiduciary duty to clients, combining a professional relationship with any intimate personal relationship raises concerns about conflict of interest, impairment of the judgment of both lawyer and client, and preservation of attorney-client privilege. These concerns are particularly acute when a lawyer has a sexual relationship with a client.  (emphasis added)”

Seek Confidential and Expert Advice if Your Attorney Committed Malpractice

Burns & Jain has been representing victims of legal malpractice in Massachusetts since 1985.  We have represented victims of many kinds of sexual assault by lawyers.  We can undertake a complete, confidential, review of your case and give you sound advice as to whether you have a valid legal malpractice claim.  Most of our clients pay only on contingency – if we win, we get a percentage – so there is no need to worry about legal bills.   

Our consultation is free so call 617-227-7423.