5 tips for dealing with difficult clients

5 tips for dealing with difficult clients

Angry to deceitful, obsessive to abusive: difficult clients can be any of these things. And more.

Sometimes they don’t know that they’re being objectionable, sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t care much either way.

Should we be surprised? After all, nobody particularly visits a lawyer to be entertained. A law firm is not a comedy club. Clients typically visit their legal advisors to deal with life’s less palatable issues: drafting a will (death); getting a divorce (demise of a relationship); or selling a business (end of a lifetime’s work), to name a few.

There, that’s cheered you up.

However, disagreeable clients mean that a lawyer is less likely to get paid and more likely to see a negligence claim. And let’s not forget the potential for complaints to the SRA.

So here are our top five tips on dealing with challenging clients.

1. Avoidance

This might sound painfully obvious, but try to avoid working for a difficult client in the first place. Nowadays, the need of hitting fees targets means that this isn’t always an easy thing to do.

Don’t be afraid of trusting your gut instinct.

If a potential client reveals:

  • “You’ll be the third lot of lawyers that I have used”
  • “My other lawyers were incompetent idiots”
  • “I’m suing my previous lawyers”

then you should think carefully before being instructed by them. Get the second opinion of a colleague. Do a Google search to see if – adopts EastEnders-style accent – they have “any previous”.

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About the author:
Paul Caddy is a highly experienced lawyer and legal writer specialising in commercial law and information law. He qualified in 2000 at Osborne Clarke and subsequently moved to Laytons where he undertook a broad spectrum of work in commercial law. His experience also includes large projects work where he helped to set up the North West Fund, the largest venture capital fund of its kind in the UK and one of the largest public sector funds of its kind in Europe.