Any experienced attorney would agree that building rapport with a client is an important part of the job. But what if the client seems disrespectful, uncooperative, and generally difficult?
Lawyers deal with people coming from different backgrounds and with distinct attitudes. Facing problematic clients happens from time to time, but it does present some challenges even to veteran lawyers.
Being able to overcome these challenges will depend on how you develop a professional relationship with your client and work towards achieving specific goals. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
From the get-go, it’s important to know the type of person you are dealing with. The initial consultation should provide you with the opportunity to learn about a client’s ability to connect. During your first interaction, pay attention to the person’s habits. Do they wink to emphasize a point? Do they cut you off mid-sentence? How do they dress? These details should give you enough insight as to how you are going to approach the client.
How and where can you meet?
A common thread among difficult clients is that they want results in an instant. They are under the impression that because they are paying, they have the right to demand extra value. The best you can do is to draw a line by letting them know you have other clients. Sit down with your client, set a working schedule, and agree on the best time for them to reach you for a special appointment. You may also set a venue outside the firm. Whether it’s a small office space or a cafe, pick a meeting place where the client can feel comfortable and willing to listen to your suggestions.
Not everyone knows the law as well as you do, so you will need to be patient with clients who want things to move fast without considering the legal rigmarole the both of you will have to go through. Make sure to explain the case clearly. If there are any complications to face, be prepared with a strategy for getting around them. Clients who expect too much from you should learn about the finer points of the legal world, so turn every interaction into an opportunity to educate clients about the complexity of their cases.
There’s a time to be assertive
What do you do if a client refuses to undergo probation when it’s the best of all possible options? In such a scenario, you might as well push your client to accept the deal. After all, you are hired to give the right results, so try to make your client understand that you’re helping them dodge a legal bullet.
Difficult clients are part of the job, but as lawyers, we should always strive to meet them eye-to-eye. We are not here to prove anything; we are here to help people win.