Some Types of Clients and How to Deal With Them

In the course of your career, you will encounter client relationships that challenge you. You may encounter:

  1. The client who is angry or hostile;
  2. The client who is out for vengeance or on a mission;
  3. The over-involved or obsessive client;
  4. The client who is very dependent on you;
  5. The secretive/deceitful/dishonest client;
  6. The client with questionable or limited capacity;
  7. The client who is not willing or prepared to accept, believe, or follow your advice.

While this is a good list, it is not exhaustive. A client might manifest more than one difficult characteristic and you may encounter a client who challenges you in a unique way. 

With each of these types of clients, you will need to employ different tactics to manage the client as well as their legal matter. Each of these types of clients will be reviewed in greater detail in this module. Regardless of the type of client you are faced with, however, you should take the following steps:

  • Identify the problem or potential problem;
  • Establish parameters that allow you to control the relationship; and
  • Document all the steps you take in dealing with the client. Proper documentation is best practice for dealing with all clients, but it is particularly important when faced with a difficult client relationship. 


High Conflict Personalities

It is also worth considering the warning signs of a high-conflict personality. As you would expect, these types of people represent a disproportionate share of those involved in high-conflict litigation. Many high-conflict personality types do not accept their lawyer’s assessment of their case and legal strategies.

Although rare, there are instances in which clients become violent with the parties or lawyers involved in a dispute. It is difficult to identify a potentially violent client in advance, but a person’s words and behaviour can point to this potential.

If you practice in an area that tends to attract high-conflict matters, you may wish to consult resources on how to identify and manage the different types of high-conflict personalities. Many additional resources are available if you are seeking further information, strategies, and training with respect to dealing with high-conflict individuals.