If You Decide to Take On a Difficult Client

If you decide to take on a difficult client:

  • be direct and clear as to how the relationship is going to work. Both your expectations from the client and what they can expect from you;
  • put the structure of the relationship in writing, including how you will communicate with the client and on what time-frame,¬†and stick to the parameters;
  • remember that you have an obligation to respond to clients in a timely manner, and to keep them informed of the conduct of their file;
  • take a substantial retainer up front if you suspect the client's ability or willingness to pay may be a problem. The client should replenish the retainer as it is depleted, and understand that you won't continue to work without a replenished retainer (see the Retainer module for discussion of retainer). Bill difficult clients regularly so that they know when you are working for them and understand that their contact with your office has a cost; and
  • as with all clients, and particularly with difficult clients, ensure you maintain proper¬†communication channels. It is especially important to bill your client frequently, rather than waiting and sending a large bill down the road. The further you get from the work you have performed, the less value your client is likely to place on that work. Consequently, the client is more likely to complain about your work or the fairness of your bill;
  • know when to end your solicitor-client relationship. If the client cannot be satisfied perhaps it is time to let another lawyer try.

These guidelines will help to manage difficult clients, and prevent others from becoming difficult. While you are free to take on a difficult client, take steps to ensure you don't become a cautionary tale.