Dependent clients struggle with making decisions and may endeavour to have you make their legal decisions for them.
If you are working with dependent clients, it is especially important to set boundaries. Professional boundaries are an essential aspect of practicing law and protect both you and your clients. Healthy boundaries help delineate a lawyer’s role and limits. They also help create a consistent structure for your legal practice and include clear and predictable avenues of communication; consistent behaviour towards clients; managing client expectations, milestones, and goals; and setting limits to your availability as counsel.
The key to maintaining these healthy boundaries is communication. If your client is particularly vulnerable and dependent, however, it is also important to make sure you remain within your area of professional competence. Be sure you do not lose objectivity of the client’s matter or allow the client to talk you into making decisions for them. Help the client realize and understand what their options are, and then ensure you receive your instructions from them in writing. If your client refuses to make their own decisions, you may wish to recommend they ask someone to act as their Power of Attorney or enlist other alternative resources to help them.