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April 12, 2011

By: Joel Cohen

You litigated your heart out for a client, Joseph Ingrait, whom you relentlessly claimed to be innocent. You told anyone who would listen of his innocence—notwithstanding the significant evidence against him—and even maintained his innocence to the prosecutor, whom you repeatedly tried to persuade to dismiss the case. Not to mention the judge, who aggressively pushed you to have Ingrait plead guilty, and then made your life a living hell throughout the trial because, in your view, Ingrait refused. During the long trial, you suffered from insomnia, tossing and turning over strategy decisions you had made or still needed to make. And, with seemingly sheer abandon, you pushed the rest of your practice aside, burdened by your emotional defense of "an innocent man."

But despite your zealous and Herculean efforts to defend this accused, the jury simply didn't buy the alibi so poignantly (at least in your opinion) delivered at trial by his girlfriend. And, if that were not enough, after conviction the judge piled on consecutive sentences, seemingly in retaliation for Ingrait (or you) having declined to listen to the judge's not-so-subtle entreaties of a shorter prison sentence if only he had pleaded guilty when the judge's "generous" plea offer was still on the table.

So now, Ingrait is in prison. You're not an appellate lawyer, so he chose one to take the battle from here. The case winds its way slowly through the appellate process while Ingrait's horrible life in jail drones on. For a variety of reasons largely arising from incorrect rulings by the trial judge, Ingrait gains a reversal of the conviction after he has sat in jail for two years. But, even more importantly, your successor, Jim Armchair, somehow manages to persuade the prosecutor's office to not retry the case. Ingrait is free at last; but, of course, only after two dreadful, back-to-the-wall years in the big house.

As the saying goes, though, and as Ingrait understandably sees it: "Where do I go to get my life back?" Suing the state over his wrongful conviction will likely be a waste of time given the guilty verdict. Seeking a more effective outcome, Ingrait decides to sue his trial lawyer—you!—for legal malpractice. That's right, the guy who dropped everything to defend this case practically pro-bono! And, whatever malpractice policy you have, it can't possibly cover this claim.

So now you need to defend yourself against him.

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