Versatility is an important skill for lawyers to learn. When it comes to client management, it can take years to hone your skill set, so knowing the basics behind typical clientele can be helpful. Although no clients will neatly fit into each of the four categories outlined below, it helps to recognize patterns in behavior and motivation.
1. The “Green” Client
This client is inexperienced with lawyers or perhaps is new to the area of law they find themselves needing. It’s important to understand their experiences; everything is new and that can be frightening. This can be overwhelming and exhausting, even if their situation is enjoyable. The best way to help this client is to explain everything in great detail. You’ll get the chance to walk them through each step with patience, and they’ll have the opportunity to raise questions that will inevitably bring you more information for your case.
2. The Habitual Client
This client has seen their fair share of legal situations. They are the total opposite of The “Green” Client in that they have worked with several attorneys before. They know the ins and outs of their case and perhaps they even know legal terminology and process outside of public knowledge. This might make them feel the need to tell you what to do. In order to manage them effectively, you must establish your position early and consistently. You are their lawyer, not them. They may know some of their situation, but you are responsible for the outcome and they will need to know how best to trust your legal expertise.
3. Know-It-All Client
The Know-It-All client goes hand-in-hand with The Habitual Client. They may question your every decision in their case and try to “take over” your legal process at the first sign of perceived fumbling. Again, it’s important to assert your legal knowledge and course of action is executed with their best interests, effectively letting them know who needs to be in charge. It’s important to note: people deal with stressful situations differently. The Know-It-All client might be expressing extreme fear or lack of control in needing to depend on an attorney at all. This could be the source of their desire to tell you how their case should be handled.
4. The “Best Deal” Client
The “Best Deal” Client is never concerned with ethics or due process. This client is focused on finding an attorney who will help them carry out immoral and sometimes illegal goals. These clients may be hard to find, as there are no clear-cut signs to point to. However, having an efficient client intake process will help to ensure you never retain this type. If you need additional help with this type of client, you might try consulting a mentor or a lawyer ethics hotline (typically found within state bar associations) for aid.