Marque Lawyers partner Nathan Mattock explains how to deal with difficult clients.
I love caller ID.
But I hate that feeling when the phone rings, I recognise the number and panic quickly spreads . . . the client from hell is on the blower.
Now, I’m going to be honest. There have been plenty of times when I’ve let that call go straight through to the keeper. I feel like I’ve got to steel myself for the ridiculous questions that I’ve answered thousands of times before, the same incredulous sighs at the end when the answer he wanted is not what you’re giving him or the demands that he makes for the quickest turn around as if he is the only client on the planet.
I will digress with a true story. A new client wanted some advice on how to “get out of this bloody agreement”. Sure, I can give that advice but you’re going to have to put money into trust (I just had that feeling with this client). Now, this caused quite a stir and ended up with the statement: “I’ll put the money into trust when you give me the advice I want”. We disagreed on that point!
I should have known this was going to be a nightmare.
The money went into trust.
The advice was that he couldn’t get out of this bloody agreement.
Since then there has been at least a half a dozen further calls at least for 20 minutes each telling me why my advice is wrong. Ahhhh, get me outta here.
So, what do I do? First of all I’ve realised that with some clients (the demanding, cranky types) if you let the call go through to the keeper, they’ll just call your mobile. It’s better just to get the call over and done with.
The second thing is coming to the realisation that with those types of clients, they are either born that way and you just have to suck it up or they are like most people who don’t deal with lawyers on a day to day basis and it’s quite a stressful experience. It’s not stressful because we’re lawyers, but because we often deal with people’s problems. Anyone with a problem is usually stressed.
The third thing is to make sure I never compromise my professional obligations. Giving an answer to a client that he doesn’t want to hear is not easy, but it’s what we’re paid to do.
And lastly, I like the range of new wine bars opening up around town. I suggest Grasshopper or Stitch Bar. Both are good for a de-stressing drink!
Nathan Mattock is a partner at Marque Lawyers. See his profile here.