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Dealing With Difficult Clients

October 24, 2009

At some point in time, we all run into them: difficult clients.  It may be in the form of clients who may are unrealistic in settlement negotiations.  It may be clients who refuse to agree to certain provisions in a corporate transaction.  It could be clients who aren’t cooperative.

Learning to deal with these clients is certainly part of lawyering.  Part of our roles as attorneys is to learn how to deal with different types of people, be they opposing counsel,witnesses or our own clients.  There are, however, important things you should remember and keep in mind:

  • Advise your client by phone or in person – Obviously, you want to reason with your clients regarding what you believe is the proper course of action.  A lot, of course, gets lost in translation when you send e-mails or letters to your client.  Speaking to your clients directly on the phone or in person gets your position across directly.  And if the clients don’t listen, at least you’ve tried.
  • CYA by following up in writing – You’ve spoken to your client, and the client isn’t listening to you.  You should make sure, though, that you follow up with an e-mail or letter reiterating your position and potential concerns.  Even if your client decides to keep a different course, at least you’ve stated your advice, and the client has a record of it in writing.
  • Follow through on the client’s directions but see if client has an open mind – The client has given you marching orders, and you don’t necessarily agree.  Nevertheless, you do as the client directs, and you do so with the appropriate vigor and zeal.  While going forward with the client’s position, however, don’t hesitate to gently approach the client about modifying it, particularly if things are not going well.  You can use the tact of noting that you tried the client’s way, and there were mixed results, but that perhaps a change of tactics may lead to better results.

Dealing with people is an important skill for lawyers to have.  Learning how to properly handle difficult clients will be something you need to develop through time and experience.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2009 6:35 am

    Unfortunately law school does not teach these very important skills. An important skill is to not take it personally. Others have recommended treating the customer as always right. Good listening skills are important in these situations. Communication seems to be among the more important ways to resolve the issues. When you have a difficult client you have to decide whether its worth their business. It may not be, particularly when they don’t follow your advice.

  2. Phil Jones, LSCSW, RAODAC permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:21 pm

    Helpful stuff

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