Divorce is not a happy time in one's life. In fact, it is one of the worst experiences that anyone can go through. Over the years, I've dealt with many difficult situations and horrible clients. What should attorneys do in dealing with a difficult or dysfunctional client?
1. Keep your client informed.
2. Communicate. Return phone calls, respond to emails, respond to letters and do this in a timely fashion.
3. Meet with your clients on a regular basis. When you are meeting, discuss issues, options, and document everything. I believe it is a good idea to write a memorandum to your client following up on every meeting to discussing upcoming issues and variables as to how to move forward on a case.
4. Make your client feel important. Remember that while you, as an attorney, are dealing with many, many cases, this is the most important, overwhelming time in your client's life. Don't forget that!
5. Be sensitive and caring, but also remember that you are the attorney and you cannot replace a client's therapist.
6. What if the client is out of control? Sometimes it's a good idea to have a staff member, such as a paralegal or other attorney, sit in on a meeting with a client who is not in control of his or her senses.
7. If the client's demands become impossible and unreasonable, tell the client. Maybe its time for you and the client to part ways. Sometimes it is better to part ways early in a case, rather than later when things become more firmly entrenched. In some cases, if it looks like you and your client are butting heads and cannot communicate, this is the time to tell the client "I'm sorry, but I think that I can no longer meet your needs, and maybe it's time for you to seek other counsel." In some situations you have to file a motion to withdraw. Over the years, I have withdrawn from very few cases, but there are times when it is a necessity.
8. Remember that at the end of the divorce, most clients are not happy. Think of the situation where a client walks into an attorney's office to start a divorce. He or she is unhappy, and wants to get out of the marriage, or is being left behind, which can cause even more unhappiness. At the end of the divorce, the client ends up with half of the property and money that he or she had before. The client feels that he or she is paying too much in child support or alimony. On the other hand, he or she feels that there is too little alimony or child support coming in. The clients often walk away with debts, especially in these tough economic times. Last, but not least, there are the attorney fees to pay. These are not happy times and attorneys should handle these issues sensitively. Remember, many people believe that their divorce attorneys have not done everything that they should. They often feel they have not received enough attention. On the other hand, many attorneys feel that they have a client who is too demanding or unreasonable. Remember, this is a crazy time in everyone's life. Divorces are painful to say the least. What are your thoughts?
By: HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222
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