THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA
84th Annual Meeting
Program 138 Dealing with Difficult Clients and Opposing Counsel: Successful Strategies and Tactics
Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:15 p.m.-5:15 p.m.
Sponsored by the Solo and Small Firm Section
The State Bar of California and the Office of Section Education and Meeting Services are approved State Bar of California MCLE providers. Points of view or opinions expressed in these pages are those of the speaker(s) and/or author(s). They have not been adopted or endorsed by the State Bar of California’s Board of Governors and do not constitute the official position or policy of the State Bar of California. Nothing contained herein is intended to address any specific legal inquiry, nor is it a substitute for independent legal research to original sources or obtaining separate legal advice regarding specific legal situations. ©2011 State Bar of California All Rights Reserved
Dealing with Difficult People by Steven G. Mehta There seems to be no shortage of difficult people in the practice of law. Perhaps there is something in the water, or perhaps it is the economy. But no matter where you go, difficult clients or opposing counsel seem to be popping up out of nowhere. Indeed, take the case of the hypothetical mediator who had a recent encounter with an extremely difficult party who wanted to sabotage the mediation from the very beginning. The client insulted her own attorney, wouldn’t let the other parties speak, accused her attorneys and every attorney in the world of having no heart or emotions and being liars and accused the mediator of lying about the merits of the case. To top off her venom, she had already reported her attorneys to the bar and at every turn was trying to avoid resolving the case. At one point, one of her attorneys walked out of the mediation. In short – she was the mother of all nightmare parties. Unfortunately for most attorneys and mediators, they have met this type of client/party at some point in their career. Therefore, it is critical to understand how to deal with such difficult clients and opposing counsel. First, this article will identify some of the different types of difficult clients. Second, it will discuss general strategies on how to deal with difficult people. Finally, it will provide specific tools on how to deal with difficult clients or opposing counsel. The following are the most common types of clients that can walk into your office. Usually, this angry client will be very hostile towards you and others. Your staff may dread dealing with this person. Sometimes, it is unclear why the person is so angry. Be assured that this person’s anger will only get worse during litigation. Moreover, some or all of that anger will spill over to you and your staff. • The vengeful or zealous client. Typically a vengeful or zealous client will be vengeful about many things and not just the cause for what you are being hired. This person will usually make it known that they are bringing "the fight" based on principle. Many times this desire for vengeance will overcome any sense of rationality. • The obsessed client. This client cannot stop thinking about the case, the injury, the wrong, and what can be done to address this problem. This client could easily call you several times a day to make sure that you are on top of the case. You could likely get too much information rather than too little. • The emotionally needy client. This client is often emotionally fragile and insecure. Many times this person will be in a co-dependent relationship and is seeking to embroil you in another co-dependent relationship. This person may find it very difficult to make decisions. Mediation Offices of Steve G. Mehta 25124 Springfield Court, Ste. 250, Valencia, CA 91355 Tel: (661) 284-1818 Fax: 661 284-1811 Email: Steve@mehtamann.com Offices: Valencia & Los Angeles
ÂThe angry or hostile client.
• The dishonest or deceitful client. Often this client will not...
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