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Bad results might occur at trial, on appeal, in arbitrations, or as a result of the closing of a commercial transaction. However, attorneys are not liable simply because a bad result has occurred. For example, a plaintiff’s attorney is not liable to his or her client simply because the jury awards less than the settlement demand. Likewise, a defense attorney is not liable to his or her client because the court or jury awards more than the settlement offer. Attorneys are not liable solely because an appellate court rules against their client. In addition, attorneys handling arbitrations are not liable simply because of a bad result or when the arbitrators exceed their authority. Finally, transactional attorneys are not liable when the deal goes awry or when the business fails following the closing. This article will examine the above situations and explain why and how this immunity applies to attorneys.

In New Jersey, the client does not have a viable malpractice claim simply because a poor result has occurred. Also, although an attorney owes a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care, that duty should not be considered in a vacuum, but it must be considered with the type of service the attorney undertakes to perform. Ziegelheim v. Apollo, 128 N.J. 250, 260-261 (1992).

In representing clients, bad results occur for numerous reasons that may be outside of the attorney’s control. The standard requires the attorney to formulate a reasonable legal strategy. However, the obligation to formulate a legal strategy simply requires that the attorney use reasonable professional judgment in doing so, whether or not that strategy is ultimately successful. See, Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 344 N.J. Super. 408 (App. Div. 2001).

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