The Problem With This Case is the Client.

An attorney client of ours recently told Melissa that his client is a problem. He said, “the problem with this case is my client.” He was pretty direct, but we’ve heard this, or some variation thereof, countless times. In this case, the client is wealthy (and accustomed to getting his way as a result). He’s “cocky” arrogant, and dismissive of other people’s opinions. He isn’t well educated, meaning he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and, rather than trying to learn from those who can educate him about the legal issues he is facing, his insecurities lead him to trying to prove himself to hide his ignorance. The attorney does not think his client, our ultimate client, makes a good impression because of these factors, and because he is dismissive and rude. In other words, he is his own worst enemy. And, he’s the one on the spot, in the hot seat! This can be a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen this many times. Not necessarily with these particular variables, but in some way, shape or form, the client can be more challenging to manage than the facts of the case. We’ve had highly emotional and upset end clients. We’ve had angry, argumentative end clients, one or two who were prone to physically abuse their own attorney. These have been plaintiffs and defendants; “bad clients” are not limited to one side of the case. Some of these clients are tamed after the reality check of research. Others can be improved by Magnus conducted witness prep. Other times, it is a matter of just holding on for the ride and doing the best one can!

I often wonder if  “problem clients” know their attorney considers them to be a problem.  Or, are they demanding, arrogant, and self centered to the point they have no idea of the impact they have on other people?  Many times, the end client (defined as one of the primary parties in the lawsuit, that is, the plaintiff or the defendant) becomes argumentative with his/her  attorney to the point their relationship becomes dysfunctional.  In extreme cases, such as the ones in which an attorney has told David and me about being shoved, slapped, or otherwise physically abused by a client, it comes as no surprise that the attorney declines to continue representing the abusive person.  More commonly, however, we hear from attorneys who have trouble “managing” their client or their client’s unrealistic expectations about their case and when this happens, I am usually asked to intervene.  My best intervention method is, of course, the outcome of mock jury research.  Regardless of the huge size of someone’s ego, it is humbling to be criticized and “put in one’s place” by a bunch of strangers.  All I have to do is ask the mock jurors to give me a few words that describe their impression of the witness (that is, the problem client) and they happily oblige.  Some of the things they say are astounding!  The feedback I receive from the mock jurors is, of course, subjective, but it has the positive feature of having someone other than the attorney provide a critique of the client, thereby reducing the likelihood of offending him or her.  To anyone who believes he or she is the “perfect person,” being told things like “He needs to stop drinking so much soda because he keeps burping too much,” or “Why did he think it was a good idea to wear a Hawai’ian shirt to his deposition?” or “This nurse looks like the angel of death” will be an eye opening experience!  Problem client?  Call Magnus for help.

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