Here's How to Handle THESE Kinds of Clients

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Here's How to Handle THESE Kinds of Clients

We don’t talk about a lawyer’s side job much – customer service. Rarely is the subject taught at law school, and most attorneys learn how to handle difficult clients on the job. Legal representation involves trying to represent the client’s best interest while also juggling the responsibility of upholding the law. Clients rarely understand how things really happen in a courtroom. With excellent customer service skills, you can achieve the best outcome for you and the clients. Here are some examples of the types of clients that attorneys encounter and how to effectively manage them.

The Controlling One

The micro-managing client rarely lets the attorney breathe, and cannot give up any type of control for the lawyer to do their job. They want to be involved in every aspect of the case, bringing in unnecessary extra cases and legal reading they did on their own, and possibly questioning every decision made regarding the case.

How to Handle

  • Set CLEAR boundaries. Sometimes some people lack professional boundaries.
  • Be firm, but polite, when letting them know that you are the expert and need to be allowed to do your job
  • Help them understand that giving you extra work from their amateur legal work will incur additional fees and costs
  • Learn to interrupt when they go on long explanations to keep to conversation focused

The Dishonest One

The client may withhold information due to various reasons. Fear, guilt, or the rare ulterior motive. Perhaps they make incorrect assumptions due to other peoples’ experiences or media exposure. Regardless, not disclosing the full details of the case can unnecessarily complicate your job.

How to Handle

  • If you suspect they are withholding information, make them aware that this can hinder their case in the long run
  • Provide reassurance and address their guilt or fear of the outcome
  • Help them understand that the juries determine guilt, not the attorney and that you are here to help them achieve the best possible result
  • If the client still wishes to continue to omit information, ensure they understand the potential consequences of ending the professional contract with them

The Loose Canon

If every client behaved exactly the way we advised them to, then we would have stress-free cases. You tell them one thing, and they do something else instead with no warning. They’ll behave in opposition to the advice received, still expecting the same outcome to occur.

How to Handle

  • Documentation is your friend again here. Write up the advice given to clients along with their acknowledgment in writing as well
  • Encourage them to ask questions and raise any concerns before they decide to act on anything
  • Emphasize the potential outcomes if they act differently from the advice given –even taking the extra step of putting the discussion in writing if the client seems sporadic enough

The Dine and Dasher

Just as the name suggests, they’re a pleasure to work with until it comes time to pay the bill. Once the case is closed, they suddenly become impossible to reach. They’ll ghost you through email, phone, text messages, and may even block you.

How to Handle

  • Require a card for a deposit – and include a provision allowing you to charge outstanding balances
  • Bill at different intervals – before, during, and after completing the case
  • Offer payment plan options and multiple payment methods. Discuss anything that may help the client pay for your services such as waiving a fee or two

Overall Survival Guide

Often, you’ll be able to vet a client and discern any problem aspects early in the relationship. But sometimes we still have to accept them due to a multitude of reasons. The best action would be to protect yourself before representation.

  • Identify the type of client you might have to deal with early on
  • Remind them when the end of the professional relationship is coming to an end. It will be a good opportunity to wrap up any loose ends with them and avoid any unnecessary post-case communication.
  • Documentation is your strongest ally. Since it’s for billing purposes, it won’t need to be utilized in a case.
  • Document client services performed, complaints, interventions, and referrals can settle future disagreements or conflicts with the client as the case ends

By setting clear boundaries, documenting advice given, and requiring deposits with interval billing, attorneys can protect themselves and their practice. Not all clients will be easy to deal with, taking proactive measures can help minimize stress and conflict in the long run. As with any business, strong customer service skills can lead to better outcomes for both the clients and the lawyers.

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