It’s sometimes easy to forget that both attorneys and their clients are people — and they are entitled to their own feelings. That’s why it’s important to recognize that attorneys aren’t always trained to deal with difficult clients. They’re trained how to interpret and argue certain facets of the law. Most people who enter the offices of a law firm have no idea what to expect. All they have are their assumptions about attorneys — who aren’t the robots some people come to expect.
There are a few basic ground rules when dealing with a difficult client. First and foremost, we recommend therapy for anyone, but this is especially important for attorneys. You need to learn how to interact with people in a healthy way. This will increase the appeal and help you both in the long run. And let’s face it, you can afford the doctor.
When a new client walks into the office, this is a person who is already struggling. Never forget this. What concerns or issues the client divulges, be sure to do everything in your power to show understanding and appreciation for those problems. Acknowledge this person’s feelings — and their right to those feelings — and then try to clarify exactly what you can and cannot achieve on their behalf. It’s very important to manage those first impressions and expectations.
While you’re making sure they understand your goals, try to inquire what they wish to see happen. What are their goals? And then continue to clarify what is possible under the law.
If a client needs outside services, provide the relevant referrals. You’ll want to build contacts in many industries depending on your practice. Are you practicing medical malpractice or personal injury? These people often feel especially wounded — and not just physically. Someone has wronged them, and that can be a difficult pill to swallow. Provide them with someone who can listen. Sometimes group therapy can be tremendously helpful. Knowing the right doctors can also be helpful.