Bad Clients to Avoid Representing
How to Screen Out Problem Clients
One of the best ways to maintain good relationships with clients is to avoid the bad clients in the first place. There are certain types of people that smart lawyers have learned to avoid representing whenever possible.
This doesn't necessarily mean turning down cases where the lawyer disapproves of what the client did. The practice of law often involves representing people who have done really bad things, and some of those people can actually be great clients.
People with certain attitudes and opinions can make a lawyer's life a nightmare if he or she makes the mistake of taking that person as a client. The following are some of the people that it would be wise to avoid representing.
The Angry Client
Is the potential client full of rage over what happened to him? Does he sound like he is ready to tear someone's head off? Just because that anger is directed at someone else right now doesn't mean it won't be directed at the lawyer in the future. If a client seems to have anger management issues, it may be best to stay away from him or her. There have been too many attorneys physically assaulted by angry clients to not take anger problems seriously. And even if the client is not physically violent, this type of client is far too likely to make a lawyer's life miserable. Some things are not worth the money and that includes representing certain kinds of clients.
The Vengeful Client
This is often the same person as the angry client but not always. Often the vengeful client is the one who follows the mantra that "revenge is a dish best served cold." Some people hire a lawyer solely to make another person miserable. If the client seems more interested in hurting people than in achieving some positive goal, this may be a client to avoid.
The lawyer could easily become the next target on the vengeful client's hit list.
The Client With Unrealistic Expectations
In an article called How To Handle Difficult Clients, Justice Carole Curtis described four kinds of unrealistic client expectations: (1) expectations about service; (2) expectations about time; (3) expectations about costs; and (4) expectations about results. Before entering into an attorney-client relationship with a new customer, a lawyer should try to make sure the client has a realistic understanding of what to expect in each of these four categories. Miscommunication about any of these issues will likely result in an unhappy client and a confrontation when those expectations are not met. Establish the ground rules on what to expect up front. If the client persists in an unrealistic opinion of what to expect even after the lawyer has explained those are not realistic goals, perhaps it is best to let another attorney be the one to disappoint him.
The Inappropriate Client
Law school does not spend a lot of time teaching lawyers how to handle when a client proposes exchanging sex for legal services. If a client wants to trade sexual favors for legal services, the lawyer needs to very quickly establish that this will never be an option in the attorney-client relationship.
If the client accepts this rule and drops the idea, then there may be no problem in the attorney going forward with representing that person. However, if the client persists in trying to seduce the attorney or if the attorney believes he or she will yield to temptation over time, it is best to terminate the attorney-client relationship immediately. No lawyer should risk his or her entire legal career over a person who is only pretending to like the lawyer to get out of paying a bill.
The Rude Client
Some clients are difficult to deal with, and that's actually ok. Lawyers should be tough enough to handle a difficult client from time to time without losing sleep over it. But the rude client is another matter entirely. A potential client who is rude is a client who does not respect the lawyer.
The rude client is the one who will be pushy, demanding, and annoying. He or she will not appreciate the lawyer's work, will always be critical, and will never be satisfied. Every interaction with the rude client will be unpleasant, and when the case is over the rude client will want a refund. Don't waste time representing rude people.
These are not the only clients a lawyer should avoid, but dropping these five from the client roster will go a long way toward making a lawyer's life much easier.