By Marli Naidoo
Difficult clients are part of this profession. People usually contact an attorney when they are having a difficult time or when they experience problems for which they need legal aid. It is understandable that some clients are emotional and stressed.
An attorney does not have to accept as a client everybody who comes into his offices. Question the client about previous attorneys he used, why he does not use their services anymore, what he expects of his legal adviser, how he prefers to communicate, etc. You can then decide whether you want to commit to this person. This will not guarantee that everything will go well from then on, but it could cut out some problematic situations.
Be prepared to admit when you have made a mistake. However, if a client falsely accuses you it would be better not to apologise but to put the matter right. Tell him that his accusation is not true.
Make sure at the outset that your clients know how you prefer to work: how you prefer to communicate, what your fees are and what you charge fees for, what you expect of him, and how long certain processes could take. You don’t know what is going on in the client’s head. He could perhaps assume that he can talk to you on the telephone for half an hour without having to pay for it. Also make sure that he knows not to phone you after hours and not to treat your personnel badly.
Be consistent. It must not be possible to change the rules at will.
Keep the communication focused on the desired outcome and the timeline that will get you there. Don’t get bogged down in hours of talking about unnecessary things.
Never represent family. There is a good chance that they will expect special treatment, which could cause the relationship to take a knock.
Understand why the client is being difficult. He could be suffering from a mental disorder or a serious medical condition. Perhaps he is feeling overwhelmed, is mourning a loss, is scared of the legal process and is taking his negative emotions out on you. As soon as you know what is making the client difficult you can make a plan to handle it.
Remember that you are working with people, and therefore treat your clients with empathy and genuine interest. You don’t have to become a doormat to do this. However, balance is important and it will help you to capture the lifelong loyalty of happy clients.
Canadian Lawyer: https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/news/opinion/10-ways-to-deal-with-difficult-clients/270282#:~:text=Educate%2C%20educate%2C%20educate%3A%20The,that%20nothing%20is%20being%20done.
Law Ware: https://lawware.co.uk/difficult-legal-clients/
Above the Law: https://abovethelaw.com/career-files/taming-the-beast-how-to-manage-difficult-clients/?rf=1